26 November 2014

Emergency Power imperils environment and public health, green groups say

Environmental groups today denounced efforts by lawmakers allied with the administration to railroad the granting of emergency powers to the President to address a supposed power crisis, stressing that in its current form, the proposal would entail greater and unacceptable sacrifices for the people and the environment.

The environmental groups, which include the EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), warned that the proposed resolution on emergency powers gives the President authority to suspend the application of environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, and this could make sacrificial zones of communities that will end up hosting polluting energy plants, and open the floodgates for banned waste incinerators masquerading as waste to energy facilities.

Last 18 November 2014, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy approved proposed House Joint Resolution No. 21, granting President Benigno S. Aquino III the authority to provide for the establishment of additional power generating capacity to address an alleged projected electricity shortage in Luzon.

“By authorizing the President to suspend the application of pertinent laws like the Clean Air Act, the resolution would effectively deny Filipinos their constitutionally mandated right to a balanced and healthful ecology. This is simply unacceptable and also betrays the dirty agenda being pushed by politicians and interest groups behind this measure,” said Von Hernandez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition and Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

“Why suspend the Clean Air Act, if you are not planning to push dirty and polluting facilities as a solution to the much ballyhooed power crisis?” cried Hernandez.

The groups expressed that they are also aware that government officials at the highest levels together with their cohorts in Congress are engaged in a coordinated effort to weaken and water down the country’s existing environmental laws.

“Not even a real crisis, how much more a manufactured one, will justify such a draconian measure,” the groups stressed, pointing out the inconsistencies even in the energy department’s own statements on different occasions about the supposed power crisis.

The environmental groups also contend that the government only has itself to blame if power shortages do materialize next year, citing the lackadaisical attempts of the Aquino administration and local governments to implement the Renewable Energy Act.

The groups pointed out that, instead of aggressively enforcing environmental laws like the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and the Clean Air Act, officials continue to flirt with quick-fix solutions including dirty, polluting, and climate changing power plants like coal (power), and suspicious waste to energy technologies.

The Philippines is endowed with a rich renewable energy potential coming from clean sources like the sun, wind, rivers, ocean currents, as well as biodegradable wastes, which comprise more than 50% of the country’s generated waste. The lack of sustained efforts, investments, and political will on the part of the government to harness this potential, however, has been largely absent, as observed by the environmental groups.

“This administration is squandering the opportunity to do the right thing and make the correct decisions for our future. Instead of meeting our energy challenges in an enlightened manner given what the science is already telling us about toxics pollution and climate change, the technocrats and politicians of this administration remain myopic, intent on deepening the country’s dependence on discredited and polluting power sources,” asserted Hernandez.

“We wouldn’t be surprised if incinerator and coal pushers will exploit this new opening being accorded by the proposed emergency measure. Filipinos already reeling from skyrocketing power rates, pollution, and climate impacts should blame the Aquino administration for this dirty legacy if this measure in its current form comes to pass,” added Hernandez.

The EcoWaste Coalition is a network of more than 150 different organizations and groups, including Greenpeace and GAIA, from all over the country, united by the common goal to combat waste and pollution and promote climate justice and the people’s wellbeing.


20 November 2014

Forget not “trash terror” threats to papal visit - EcoWaste Coalition

As the country prepares a  warm welcome for the much awaited papal visit in mid-January 2015, during the Zero Waste Month, waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition sounds a call to keep the event secured from an often forgotten threat -  that of trash.

“While we don’t diminish the importance of securing the visiting Pope Francis from any security breaches, church and government authorities and the public should be equally mindful of the enormous piles of garbage likely to be generated as millions crowd in on the pontiff, who is also known for his pro-environment stance,” Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said in a press statement issued today.

“We specifically urge the Papal Visit 2015-National Organizing Committee (PV-NOC) to ensure a waste-free itinerary for the ‘green’ pope,” she said.

Lucero pointed out that the visit of Pope Francis should be “an opportune time to also genuinely celebrate the Zero Waste Month, through the inculcation of zero waste principles and practices in the celebration of the papal visit.”

President Benigno Aquino III declares the month of January each year as “Zero Waste Month” through Proclamation 760. “Zero Waste,” according to the proclamation, “ is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”

It is estimated that the pontifical visit’s culminating event on 18 January 2015 in Luneta alone could gather 4 to 6 million devotees, which could translate to tons of trash if not mitigated.

The Catholic faithful, as well as curious onlookers and enterprising vendors, will surely pour into the streets to get a glimpse of the pope, creating additional waste, the group noted.

The Coalition urged the PV-NOC. Including civic, environmental and waste picker groups,   to pull together and plan ahead to ensure that waste is effectively minimized, if not eliminated, during the occasion.

“Waste pickers and informal waste collectors, in agreement with Pope Francis’ exceptional regard for them and considering their expertise on the matter, can take major roles in the management of discards to be generated during the occasion of the papal visit,” Lucero emphasized.

As a matter of guidance, the Coalition admonished the organizers to make conscious efforts to celebrate the event with simplicity and with consideration for the environment in keeping with the pope’s lifestyle and philosophy.

Some practicable measures that the group recommended to deal with “trash terror” threats during the pontifical visit include:

- Plan, in such a way that use of single-use disposable materials, such as plastic bags and wrappings and disposable plastic buntings are avoided; and that discards are segregated, at least, into biodegradable, non-biodegradable, and recyclables.

- In coordination with concerned LGUs and the MMDA, organizers should assign areas for purposes of storing large volumes of segregated discards until they are sold or brought to recyclers.

- Engage the services of waste pickers or informal recyclers to take charge of waste recovery related roles and tasks.

- Deputize environmental police to accost and penalize trash violators.

“In line with the theme of the occasion, ‘Mercy and Compassion’, devotees and even mere spectators should reflect deeper into it toward realizing that such theme is all encompassing and embraces the environment as well,” Lucero said.


12 November 2014

Pretty Christmas lights may harm you - EcoWaste Coalition warns

“Beauty can be deceiving.”
This saying must have taken its physical form as innocent- and pretty-looking yet dangerous Christmas lights that the environmental watchdog EcoWaste Coalition warned the public against buying and using.
“We are alarmed and therefore warn the public that the Christmas lights we could be beautifying our homes with in time for the Christmas festivity could be laden with harmful elements such as the neurotoxin lead,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
In their press release today, the coalition issued the warning after detecting alarming amounts of lead in 10 of the 15 samples that they screened using the X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer or XRF.
The 10 samples showed levels of lead above the 1,000 parts per million (ppm) limit under the EU Directive on Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS).
According to Dizon, lead levels detected in the 10 positive samples range between 1,181 ppm to 5,264 ppm, which are way above the RoHS limit.
“It’s worrisome that we lack a RoHS-like policy, something that gives unscrupulous manufacturers and businessmen the breathing space to easily amass profit at the expense of the Filipino people’s health and safety,” Dizon stressed.
According to the RoHS Guide, “restricted materials are hazardous to the environment and pollute landfills, and are dangerous in terms of occupational exposure during manufacturing and recycling.”
RoHS restricts the use of 6 materials in electrical and electronic products, by specifying maximum levels for these substances. The restricted materials are cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, polybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers.
The coalition also noted that 7 of the 15 samples do not bear Import Commodity Compliance Certificate (ICC) stickers for imported lights or the Philippine Standard mark for those manufactured locally, which means that they did not undergo the Department of Trade and Industry protocol for standards before entering the market.
The 15 samples, which were procured from Caloocan City and from Binondo and Tondo in Manila, ranged in price from as low as PhP60.00 up to PhP180.00 when bought.
The 10 samples detected with high lead levels are the following:

  1. A 2 Way Flashing 100 rice lights with green wiring and packed in green and yellow box had 5,264 ppm of lead.
  2. A North Star Christmas lights with green wiring and packed in transparent plastic packaging had 4,700 ppm of lead.
  3. A UL Listed Christmas lights with green wiring and packed in white box had 4,647 ppm of lead.
  4. An AIO Christmas lights with 12 Star Lights clinging to green wiring and packed in transparent plastic packaging had 3,970 ppm of lead.
  5. A Yuletide Fantasy Red Bulb Christmas lights with green wiring and packed in yellow box had 3,437 ppm of lead.
  6. A Mabuhay Star Christmas lights with green wiring and packed in transparent plastic packaging had 3,249 ppm of lead.
  7. A Multi Function 100 Chasing Rice Lights with green wiring and packed in transparent plastic packaging had 2,970 ppm of lead.
  8. A Mabuhay Star Christmas lights with 50 LED lights clinging to white wiring and packed in green box had 2,783 ppm of lead.
  9. A Yuletide Fantasy 100L Steady 100 rice lights with green wiring and packed in blue box had 2,218 ppm of lead.
  10. An AIO 100L Rice Light Christmas lights with golden yellow wiring and packed in chocolate-brown box had 1,181 ppm of lead.
Consumers should bear in mind that they have the right to know what is in the product that they are buying and should therefore be extra cautious when this information is not available on the packaging, the coalition advised.
Additional hazards that accompany buying cheap and sub-standard Christmas lights include risk of fire, electric shock, mini-explosion, getting burned, and exposure to hazardous substances.
“Bear in mind too that Christmas lights loaded with toxic materials could end up as hazardous wastes that are dumped, burned or improperly recycled, posing as serious health and environmental risks,” EcoWaste Coalition stressed.


10 November 2014

Toxics Watchdog Finds FDA-Banned Mercury-Loaded Skin Creams in Divisoria (Mercury up to 47,700 ppm detected in 10 products)

An environmental and health watchdog tracking the illegal traffic of toxic consumer products in the market today revealed the ruthless sale of banned skin whitening creams laden with mercury in Divisoria, Manila.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the revelation as the 15th National Skin Disease Detection and Prevention Week, spearheaded by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS), is observed on November 9 to 15.

Also dubbed as the “Skinweek,” the annual campaign seeks to “uplift the health status of Filipinos through patient education and early skin disease detection and prevention by proper dermatologic care.”

“In observance of the Skinweek, we went to Divisoria to gather proof against the unlawful sale of smuggled cosmetics laden with dangerous substances such as mercury, a chemical poison that can seriously harm the brain, the kidneys and the skin,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that “mercury in skin lightening products may cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.”

In test buys conducted yesterday, November 9, the EcoWaste Coalition’s Toxic Patrol faced no hurdle buying 10 brands of skin whitening products manufactured and imported from mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and the USA.

The products, costing P60 to P200 each, were procured from Chinese drug stores located at 11/88 Shopping Mall, 999 Shopping Mall, Lucky Chinatown Mall and Tutuban Primeblock Mall.

These unregistered products belong to the over 100 mercury-laden skin creams banned by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) from 2010 to 2014 for violating the threshold limit of 1 part per million (ppm) for mercury under the Asean Cosmetics Directive.

These products and their mercury content based on the screening conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device include:

1. BG Ginseng & Ganoderma Lucidum 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block Cream (banned in 2014) with 47,770 ppm of mercury

2. BG Sea Pearl & Papaya Natural Essence 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block  Cream (banned in 2014) with 46,500 ppm of mercury

3. Yu Dan Tang Gingseng and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence (banned in 2013) with 45,600 ppm of mercury

4. Beauty Girl Egg White and Tomato 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Cream (banned in 2011) with 43,900 ppm of mercury

5. Feique Herbal Extract Chinese Formula Whitening Anti-Freckle Set (banned in 2014) with 28,700 ppm of mercury

6. S’zitang 7-Day Specific Whitening and AB Set (banned in 2010) with 2,401 ppm of mercury

7. Jiaoli Miraculous Cream (banned in 2010) with 2,398 ppm of mercury

8. Gakadi Freckle Removing Cream (banned in 2013) with 2,335 of mercury

9. White Advance Hydroxytyrosol L_Glutathione Whitening and Anti-Aging (banned in 2013) with 1,262 ppm of mercury

10. Sanli Eliminating Freckle Cream Plus Complex Vitamin C and E (banned in 2013) with 1,505 ppm of mercury

“As the Skinweek is observed, we join our health and skin experts in urging cosmetics consumers to exercise their right not to be exposed to mercury-added products. Please be extra cautious on what you buy to lighten your skin as you may be buying a poison without knowing it.  Consumer vigilance against such toxic goods is vital to preventing mercury poisoning of our bodies and the environment,” Lucero said

Mercury-added products, as defined in the newly adopted Minamata Convention on Mercury, refer to products or product components containing mercury or a mercury compound that was intentionally added.

Lucero added that mercury in skin whitening creams is ultimately released into the wastewater, contaminating the water system and the food chain, particularly the fish supply.

According to the WHO, “pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neuro-developmental deficits in the children.”