30 October 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Renews Appeal for Garbage-Free Undas

An environmental watchdog group has reiterated its plea to the general public not to litter in cemeteries as millions prepare to visit the graves of their departed family members and friends.

"Our message is simple: 'ang sementeryo ay dasalan, hindi basurahan.'  The massive 'Undas' littering year in, year out is a gross disrespect for the dead and Mother Earth.  We need to kick this filthy habit and remember our departed loved ones in an earth-friendly and respectful manner," said zero waste campaigner Tin Vergara of the EcoWaste Coalition.

To prevent waste and pollution in cemeteries and their environs, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the public to consider the following suggestions:

1. Shun littering, dumping or burning of trash.  Do not discard cigarette filters, food wrappers and leftovers, water bottles, etc. on cemetery grounds, and bring them home for recycling, composting and disposal.

2.  Avoid bringing single-use plastic disposables to the cemetery such as carry bags and food and beverage containers and opt for reusable bags and containers instead. 

3.  Never waste food and water.  Bring just enough food and water in reusable containers to prevent waste.

4.  Offer local fresh flowers, not plastic ones and avoid wrapping them in plastic, which will only end up as trash.

5.  Choose clean burning candles that do not have lead core wicks, and do not let candle holders or receptacles to burn.

6.  Refrain from smoking in the cemetery.

To further reduce garbage in cemeteries and surrounding places, the EcoWaste Coalition also appealed to concerned groups and individuals to refrain from distributing commercial and political leaflets that will only end up abandoned on streets and tombs.

Wary of politicians who might take advantage of the large crowd to promote themselves, the group asked all “epaliticos” not to hang or nail tarps on lamp posts and trees in cemeteries and adjacent communities, stressing that “epal” acts will leave a bad taste in the mouth.

The EcoWaste Coalition last Tuesday organized a “BasuRUN” (run against garbage) with 100 participants led by “running priest” Father Robert Reyes at the Manila North Cemetery to remind the public that cemeteries are places of prayer, not dumpsites.

"My heart breaks when I see people throw away trash on the ground without any feeling of guilt or shame.  Even sanctified places like the cemeteries are not spared.  It's high time that we acknowledge that we sin against Mother Earth and other creatures who inhabit this planet every time we litter and desecrate our shared home, said Reyes.

"As Pope Francis has painfully reminded us through his encyclical Laudato Si, 'the earth our home is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,' and we need to take action now to stop this creeping environmental destruction," he added.


29 October 2015

PH Groundbreaking Lead Paint Policy Makes It to Washington DC Forum

The country’s landmark policy phasing out lead paint continues to draw positive recognition not only locally, but internationally.

The experience of the Philippines in promulgating a national policy instrument eliminating the production and sale of lead paint will be presented at a forum today, October 29, at the Embassy of Canada in Washington DC, USA.

The forum, which is part of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action, is sponsored by the partners of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (Lead Paint Alliance), including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Health Organization and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Attendees will learn about the risks posed by lead from paint and the efforts of countries to reduce this threat to the environment and to children’s health.

The forum will delve on the topic "why eliminating lead in paint is important and how countries can do it” and will include a session on case studies from countries addressing lead paint.

The UNEP Chemicals and Waste Branch had earlier written to Juan Miguel Cuna, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), saying the “Philippines would be a great example for that session, thanks to your leadership and the current progress on that issue.”

The DENR on December 23, 2013 issued Department Administrative Order 2013-24 signed by Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, which sets a threshold limit of 90 parts per million for lead in paint and provides a phase-out target by 2016 for lead-containing decorative paints and 2019 for lead-containing industrial paints.

The DENR Environmental Management Bureau had prepared a presentation for the forum - with inputs from the paint industry led by Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers and the civil society represented by the EcoWaste Coalition and the International POPs Elimination Network – to be presented by a designated staff from the Embassy of the Philippines.
The Lead Paint Alliance had earlier launched a toolkit at the recent International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) to help government officials in crafting regulations to help control the use of lead paint.  The ICCM has a global goal of eliminating lead paint by 2020.

The toolkit features case studies on regulations establishing lead content limits in paints in the Philippines, Uruguay, the European Union and USA.


27 October 2015

"Ang Sementeryo ay Dasalan, Hindi Basurahan" ("Running Priest," Environmentalists Run for Garbage-Free Cemeteries)

Over 100 environmental advocates for clean air and zero waste today staged a “BasuRUN” to remind the public not to leave any garbage behind when they visit the cemeteries to pay respects for their dearly departed loved ones on November 1 and 2.

Led by “running priest” Fr. Robert Reyes and the EcoWaste Coalition, the “BasuRUN” was held to instill in the hearts and minds of caring Filipinos that littering despoils the hallowed burial grounds and that litterbugs should cease from treating the cemeteries as their trash bins.

After a brief prayer service at the entrance of the Manila North Cemetery, Fr. Reyes and fellow runners, armed with tongs and carrying used rice sacks, ran around the vast memorial park and collected garbage.  Each participant wore a running bib with the message “ang sementeryo ay dasalan, hindi basurahan” printed on it.

Members of the Our Lady of the Angels Seminary, Ecology Ministry of the Parish of San Roque de Manila, EcoWaste Coalition, Eco-Marino Organization of the Malabon National High School,  Manila Community Emergency Response Team, Piglas Kababaihan, Tzu Chi Foundation and the Coalition of Clean Air Advocates were among those who took part in the “BasuRUN.”

Representatives of the Manila City Government, including the Department of Public Services and the Manila North Cemetery led by Administrator Daniel Tan also graced the event.

“My heart breaks when I see people throw away trash on the ground without any feeling of guilt or shame.  Even sanctified places like the cemeteries are not spared.  It’s high time that we acknowledge that we sin against Mother Earth and other creatures who inhabit this planet every time we litter and desecrate our shared home,” said Fr. Reyes.

“As Pope Francis has painfully reminded us through his encyclical Laudato Si, ‘the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth’, and we need to take action now to stop this creeping environmental destruction,” he said.

For her part, Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner at the EcoWaste Coalition, appealed to the public to be guided by the 3Rs (respect, reduce, reject) when they visit the cemeteries:

1.  Respect the dead, as well as the living, by keeping the cemetery clean and not leaving any trash behind.

2.  Reduce what you bring to the cemetery, from candles, flowers to meals, to what is only necessary and bring leftovers and discards home for proper recycling or disposal.

3.  Reject practices that contribute to waste and pollution in the cemetery such as unrestrained consumption of single-use plastic bags and other disposables, the open dumping and burning of trash, and smoking.

“Observing these 3Rs will surely lessen the environmental impact of our age-old tradition of paying homage to the dead,” Vergara said.

"The massive ‘Undas’ littering year in, year out is a gross disrespect for the dead and Mother Earth.  We need to kick this filthy littering habit and remember our deceased relatives and friends in an earth-friendly and respectful manner,” the group reiterated.


26 October 2015

Philippines Marks International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (Groups Back Phase-Out of Lead Paints to Reduce Lead Exposure among Children)

Concerned groups from the public and private sectors  have come together to promote awareness and action to combat childhood lead exposure, which contributes to approximately 600,000 new cases per year of kids with intellectual disabilities across the globe.

In observance of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (ILPPWA) on October 25 to 31, an annual campaign spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), government, industry and civil society organizations jointly backed the scheduled phase-out of lead paints in the country as an essential step for a healthy future.

To mark the occasion, some 500 students, parents and teachers of Masambong Elementary School today participated in an interactive awareness-raising program organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, a civil society partner of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, a joint UNEP-WHO initiative.

Dr. Annabelle Sinlao, lecturer at Manila Central University College of Medicine and resource person of Health Care Without Harm discussed the issue with the young audience, while Dr. Luis Gatmaitan, author of the children’s storybook “Ang Makulay na Bahay” (The Colorful House) read the story in tandem with celebrity Posh Develos.

“Through this event, we affirm our commitment to work in partnership with all sectors to ensure full compliance to the national phase-out policy for lead paints, indisputably an environmental and health milestone of the Aquino presidency,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

As per the “Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds” (CCO) issued by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje in December 2013, lead-containing decorative paints would be phased out by December 2016 and lead-containing industrial paints by December 2019.

“As there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe for any child
, let us be vigilant and support efforts to make the Philippines meet the global and local goal of eliminating lead paint,” stated Assistant DENR Secretary Juan Miguel Cuna, who is also the concurrent Director of the Environmental Management Bureau.     

“We hope that the phase out of leaded paints in due time will contribute to making our children’s environment safe from lead, he added.  

Vergel Dyoco, Chairman of the Technical Committee of the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM), assured that: "We are moving towards lead-safe paint production in line with the government’s policy that was crafted in a collaborative way with input from the PAPM, EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN, and we expect this transition process to evolve further as the phase-out target nears.”

Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Chairman of the Committee on Environmental Health and Ecology of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), said:  “We join the efforts of the EcoWaste Coalition and its partners to raise community awareness on the dangers of lead exposure through lead paint and dust and the need for concerted action to eliminate sources of lead in children's environment, including lead-containing paints and toys.”

“As prevention is better than cure, the PMA calls on all concerned sectors to pursue policies and measures that will prevent and reduce lead pollution at source such as by effectively enforcing the agreed phase-out for lead-added paints,” he said.

Information compiled by the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), a global civil society network promoting safe chemicals policies and practices, indicates that “lead exposure in children impairs the developing brain and causes neurological deficits.”

“It is associated with decreased intelligence as measured by IQ tests, reduced school performance, increased violent behavior and incarceration rates, increased cases of mental retardation, and decreased labor productivity as measured by lifelong earning potential,” IPEN, which includes the EcoWaste Coalition, said.  

Aside from lead in paint and dust, the other major sources of lead in children’s environment include lead in products such as cosmetics and toys, lead in electronic waste and lead released by incineration of lead-containing waste.  Lead pollution from the informal recycling of used lead-acid batteries is another common source.

Ingestion and inhalation are the major routes of lead exposure for both children and adults.

To reduce children’s exposure to lead in paint and dust, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded the public, particularly the parents, to
observe the following health tips:

1. Choose and use lead-safe paints, and handle surfaces painted with lead very carefully to prevent chipping paint and dust from scattering.  
2. Keep the areas where your children play as clean and dust-free as possible as ordinary dirt and dust may contain lead. Wet-mop the floors, and wet-wipe the window frames and sills and other surfaces.
3. Make sure your child does not chew on anything covered with lead paint such as painted cribs, playpens, toys or window sills.
4. Keep children from eating dirt and make sure they wash their hands after playing and before eating.
5. Wash pacifiers, teethers, bottles and eating utensils after they fall on the floor.
6. Choose only lead-safe toys for your kids, and wash toys and stuffed animals regularly.

“Children can swallow lead or breathe lead contaminated dust if they play in places with abundant dust or dirt and then put their fingers or toys in their mouths, or if they eat without washing their hands first,” the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated.



25 October 2015

"Running Priest" to Run for Waste-Free Undas

Franciscan priest Fr. Robert Reyes, also known as the “running priest,” will stage a special run to prick the conscience of the nation and prevent the cemeteries from again turning into instant dumpsites this coming “Undas.”

Reyes will lead the “BasuRUN” on October 27 at the Manila North Cemetery in partnership with the watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition to promote a garbage-free observance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on November 1 and 2.

The event will see Reyes and other collaborators running and picking up the trash at the largest and one of the oldest cemeteries in Metro Manila.

Reyes will be joined by environmental and health advocates from the Coalition of Clean Air Advocates, Eco-Marino Organization of the Malabon National High School, EcoWaste Coalition, Our Lady of the Angels Seminary and other sympathizers.

“Our message is simple: ‘ang sementeryo ay dasalan, hindi basurahan.’ The massive ‘Undas’ littering year in, year out is a gross disrespect for the dead and Mother Earth.  We need to kick this filthy littering habit and remember our departed loved ones in an earth-friendly and respectful manner,” said zero waste campaigner Tin Vergara of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Last year, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) reported collecting 834 tons of mixed garbage from October 27 to November 1 from 21 cemeteries all over the metropolis with the Manila North Cemetery producing 17 tons.

Other big garbage “producers” last year were the Manila South Cemetery in Makati City with 15 tons, San Juan City Public Cemetery with 12 tons and the Manila Memorial Park in ParaƱaque City with 11 tons.

Discarded polystyrene food containers, plastic bottles and cups, snack wrappers, soiled papers and flower baskets were among the waste materials collected.

In previous years, the EcoWaste Coalition had staged creative events to shame litterbugs and draw public attention and support for a waste-free ‘Undas,’ including wearing pig masks, dressing as garbage monsters called “Zombasura” and dancing with beauty queens to the beat of Gangnam Style and Zumba.


24 October 2015

Global Phase Out of Lead-Containing Paints Gains Ground in PH

A  public interest  group promoting chemical safety and zero waste has  lauded parallel moves at the global and local levels to eliminate lead-containing paint, a preventable source of childhood lead exposure.

On the eve of the  International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action on October 25 to 31, the EcoWaste Coalition recalled the recent decision by the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM)
affirming the global consensus to eliminate lead paint by 2020. ICCM is the implementing body of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“While banned and eliminated from paint in most high income
 countries like US decades ago,  paints containing huge amounts of lead continue to be widely sold in many developing countries, including the Philippines”  said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Fortunately, our country,
 through a fruitful collaboration involving the government, the paint industry and the civil society,  has adopted a regulatory framework that will eventually phase out lead in paint in tune with the global consensus to  get rid of such paints,” she said.     

A groundbreaking Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds , or CCO, issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
 in December 2013 puts a threshold limit for lead in paint at 90 parts per million (ppm).  It further establishes a phase-out deadline for leaded decorative paints by 2016 and leaded decorative paints by 2019.

The said policy also bans the use of lead in the production of toys, school supplies, cosmetics, water pipes and food and beverage packaging, and reiterates the ban on lead in fuel additives under the Clean Air Act.

Lucero duly noted the strategic role being played by the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) to promote awareness and compliance to the CCO among its members.

“Our partnership with the PAPM and its members is one for the books and we hope this constructive relationship to grow as we seek and monitor full industrial compliance to the phase-out targets,” she said.

To date, paint companies with majority market share have completed their transition to non-lead paint production, while other companies pursue their switch in line with the CCO. 

  also reach out to companies outside the paint industry association to ensure a level playing field where all paint companies stick to the rules,” she said. 

“We’ll also definitely keep an eye on foreign paint imports to make sure these products conform with the lead paint regulation,” she added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” warning that
“there is no safe level of exposure to lead.”

Children are most likely to be exposed to lead from ingestion of flakes and dust from decaying lead-based paint, according to WHO, affecting children's brain development and their measurable level of intelligence (IQ).

Childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to 600, 000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year, the WHO said.





20 October 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Ban on Imported Candles with Leaded Wicks

A watchdog group promoting proactive steps to prevent and control lead pollution sources urged the Department of Health (DOH) to stop the continued sale of imported candles with leaded wicks in Manila’s Chinatown.

Through a letter sent last week to Health Secretary Janette Garin, the EcoWaste Coalition asked the DOH through the Food and Drugs Administration, which has jurisdiction over candle products, to immediately ban the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of candles with lead-containing wicks to safeguard public health.

Unlike locally-made candles that has mostly cotton-based wicks, some gel or paraffin wax Chinese candles contain lead core wicks, which can emit lead fumes during burning, the group told Garin. 

Based on the group’s latest test buys, some Chinese candles contain from 17,300 to over 100,000 parts per million (ppm) of lead in the metal core wicks.

“It’s not safe to burn candles with leaded wicks, especially for young children and pregnant women who can be exposed to lead in the smoke and soot,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, stressing that “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

 “Children are most susceptible to the adverse health effects of exposure to lead,” said Dizon who added that “such exposure can irreparably damage the developing brain of the fetus in the womb and even trigger  miscarriage for pregnant women,” he added. 

The group also informed Garin that samples of candles with lead wicks sent by the EcoWaste Coalition to the SGS for laboratory analysis in October 2014 found 207,350 ppm of lead in the composite wicks of the samples.

Candles with lead core wicks had been banned since 1999 in Australia, 2001 in Finland, 2002 in Denmark and 2003 in the USA in to prevent children’s exposure to lead fumes.

In particular, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has determined that candles with leaded  wicks could pose a lead poisoning hazard to young children, prompting the agency to ban such candles since October 2003.

“The Commission finds that metal-cored candlewicks containing more than 0.06 percent lead by weight (or 600 ppm) in the metal and candles with such wicks are hazardous substances, and that, due to the degree and nature of the hazard presented by these items, in order to protect the public health and safety it is necessary to keep them out of commerce,” the CPSC ruling said.

Subsequent health warning from the US CPSC said that “children may then inhale the vaporized lead, placing them at risk,” adding that “children may also be exposed to lead by mouthing objects on which lead has settled or by handling such objects and then mouthing their hands.”

“We hope that Secretary Garin will heed our appeal and order the ban and removal of dangerous candles with leaded wicks in the market,” Dizon said.

In the meantime, the group urged consumers to choose candles for the upcoming All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day with care, advising the public to avoid buying and using candles with metallic core unless certified to be lead-safe, and to patronize locally-made candles that are of good quality and non-toxic.



17 October 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Government to Flush Out Dubious Mercury-Free LED Lightbulbs

A watchdog group advocating for safe alternatives to mercury-containing lamps urged the government to act against cheap but potentially substandard light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs flooding the informal market.

The EcoWaste Coalition has expressed concern over the proliferation of imported LED lights of dubious quality as the more energy efficient, long-lasting and mercury-free LED lamps become increasingly popular among consumers.   

The group sounded the alarm after purchasing last Thursday 20 brands of LED lights in Divisoria that were found to contain incomplete and questionable product labeling information.

“The lack of regulatory standards makes our country an easy target for inferior quality LED lights that are getting dumped in Divisoria, the country’s bargain shopping hub,” lamented Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“As LED lighting gains market traction due to its energy and climate benefits, we find it essential for government regulators to enforce product performance, quality and safety standards that will protect human health and the environment,” he emphasized.

“We are particularly interested in ensuring that mercury-free LED alternatives to mercury-containing fluorescent lamps contain no hidden hazards, require infrequent replacement and can be easily and safely recycled to reduce waste,” he added.   

“It will be useful for the government to come up with a checklist that can help consumers in identifying counterfeit LEDs that could pose health and safety risks,” he also suggested.    

On October 15, the group managed to buy 20 different brands of LED lightbulbs from retailers at 11/88, 168 and 999 Shopping Malls and the Lucky Chinatown Mall Annex with prices as low as P40 per piece.

The samples include Admin,  Bayanko, CATA, GaoGa, Hetachi, Hua Mei, HXS, Kevico, LED Bulb Lamp, LED High Power Lamp, LHT, Ocho, Okes, Onestar, OTO, Rohstar, Star, Sunrise, XQG and XinMey LED products.

As the group told the audience of a “Lamp Waste Management Forum” held at the De La Salle University on October 16, none of the 20 brands provided information about their manufacturer, importer or distributor on the product labels, a red flag for counterfeit goods.

While omitting basic manufacturer’s information, the 20 samples flaunted on the labels their energy saving benefits (ranging from 80% to 90% reduced energy use, long lifespan (reaching 10,000 hours to 50,000 hours) and other environmental and health features such as safety from mercury, infrared and ultra-violet radiation.

The group identified false product claims as another concern, citing one product that claims a life span of 10,000 hours on the front label, and 50,000 hours on the side label.  Other products claim to be compliant with the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS).

The group also noted that some products offered one to two-year product warranties but failed to provide clear and documented warranty terms.


14 October 2015

EcoWaste Coalition to Candidates: Please Don't Give Away Toxic Baller Wristbands

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, urged political aspirants to think twice before ordering baller bands as giveaways for the upcoming national and local polls in 2016.

The group issued the precautionary warning after finding lead, a toxic chemical, in mostly polyvinyl chloride (PVC) rubber baller wristbands that it bought from Divisoria retailers for P10 per piece.

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence analyzer, the group detected lead in 27 out of 30 samples of baller bands in the range of 1,325 to 8,465 parts per million (ppm) of which 15 had lead content above 4,000 ppm.  Lead was not detected in the other 3 non-PVC baller bands.

“Made-to-order baller bands are popular campaign giveaways.  Sadly, not all baller bands are equal as there are types that contain harmful chemicals,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Dizon zeroed in on PVC baller bands laden with lead, a heavy metal, which according to the World Health Organization (WHO)” is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.”

“While not originally intended for kids, these wrist accessories may end up in children’s hands and mouths and directly expose them to lead, a hazardous substance that attacks the brain and the central nervous system,” he said. 

WHO has warned that “there is  no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”

Aside from lead, PVC baller bands may contain other dangerous chemical additives such as phthalates that are added to the material to give it some useful properties, including elasticity and malleability.

To avoid giving away toxic campaign souvenirs, the EcoWaste Coalition advised candidates, political parties and party-list groups to obtain certificate of analysis from vendors to confirm the non-presence of lead and other chemicals of concerns not only in baller bands, but in all other campaign materials.

“In this manner, political aspirants avoid spending for campaign stuff that can poison human health and harm the environment,” Dizon said.

The careful selection of campaign materials to buy, show or give will benefit the public health and the environment as this will:

a. prevent chemicals of major public health concern from being introduced to the market and the environment;

b. avoid potential human exposure to dangerous substances;

c. cut trade in products containing harmful chemicals;

d. push consumer demand for non-toxic products; and

e. reduce disposal of toxic-laden waste materials in cement kilns, incinerators, dumpsites and landfills.




12 October 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Urges COMELEC, Candidates to “Green” Poll Campaign

An environmental watchdog group dared the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and all political wannabes to “green” the electoral campaign as aspirants for elective posts file their certificates of candidacy (COCs) this week.

At a rally held in front of the COMELEC headquarters in Intramuros, the EcoWaste Coalition  urged Chairman Andres Bautista  “to take proactive steps to safeguard not only the sanctity of the ballot,  but also to protect the environment from being degraded further due to  irresponsible campaign activities for the 2016 polls.”

Through a letter, the group requested COMELEC “to exercise its authority to enjoin candidates and their campaign machineries to commit to ‘green’ their campaign and do away with the traditional ‘guns, goons, gold and garbage’ that have long typified our vibrant but ecologically flawed democratic exercise.”

EcoWaste Coalition’s Zero Waste Campaigner Tin Vergara stated that “we need to change the way we conduct our elections as the country’s environment degenerates due to ever increasing resource extraction and pollution from chemicals and wastes.”

“Greening the campaign track from the filing of COCs to post-election cleanup is not rocket science.   What is needed is for the candidates and their backers to turn apathy towards the environment into simple acts of compassion for Mother Earth such as by not littering and burning campaign materials,” she said.

“Instead of the four Gs (guns, goons, gold and garbage), the entire nation should rally behind the three Rs (reduce, reuse , recycle) and make the elections less wasteful and kinder to the environment,” she added.

The group insisted that the COMELEC, with its legal and moral authority, should throw down the gauntlet to presidential bets Binay, Duterte,  Poe, Roxas and other aspiring public servants for them to embrace ecologically-responsible campaign activities that meet the minimum requirements of the country’s electoral, health and environmental laws.

Among the group’s recommendations for the “greening” of the 2016 polls, include updating, re-issuing and enforcing COMELEC Resolution No. 9615, which “encourages parties and candidates to use recyclable and environment-friendly materials and avoid those that contain hazardous chemicals and substances in the production of their campaign and election propaganda.”

The group also urged COMELEC to re-issue the Memorandum Circular on “Basura-Free Elections” that it released along with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Interior and Local Government in 2013 to, among other things, “reduce the amount of generated waste during the campaign, election, and post-election periods.”

The EcoWaste Coalition further submitted a number of other specific proposals for the COMELEC to consider, including:

A. Requiring all individuals and groups running for election to sign a Memorandum of Agreement stipulating the obligation of candidates to comply with lawful and environmentally-friendly campaign practices, including a mandatory post-campaign clean up.

B. Incorporating environmental responsibility in the COMELEC’s public information drive for clean, orderly, peaceful, honest and fair elections.

C. Regulating campaign motorcades, if not imposing an outright ban, to address rising problems with traffic congestion, air pollution and climate change, especially in urban centers such as Metro Manila.

“While not legally forbidden, we ask COMELEC to join us in asking all candidates and their supporters to desist from throwing confetti, exploding firecrackers and fireworks and releasing balloons and sky lanterns during their campaign activities for health and safety concerns,” the EcoWaste Coalition said

During the elections held in 2007, 2010 and 2013, the EcoWaste Coalition lamented how the country’s  electoral as well as health and environmental laws were ignored by candidates and their supporters in their efforts to campaign and win.

Some of the more familiar lapses include:

A.  The unchecked use of campaign materials that are seldom reused or recycled such as tarpaulins, posters and buntings, and confetti in campaign rallies.

B.  The uncontrolled plastering of campaign posters outside COMELEC-designated areas, most notoriously on trees, electric posts and walls

C.  The hanging of campaign flaglets, lanterns and streamers in streets and alleys;

D.  The display of “indirect” campaign-related banners such as graduation and fiesta “greetings” and announcements extolling the projects and achievements of politicians;

E.  The unregulated noise from mobile political propaganda and during campaign meetings;

F.  The rampant distribution and littering of sample ballots on election day;

G.  The open burning of campaign waste, which, like littering, is a prohibited act under RA 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act; and

H.  The massive use of polystyrene containers for drinks and meals served inside the polling centers for members of the Board of Election Inspectors, poll watchers and volunteers, and the lack of an ecological systems for managing discards such as food leftovers and their single-use containers.

I.  The failure to immediately remove campaign materials after the election period.


11 October 2015

Environmental Watchdog Promotes Composting and Organic Farming at Food Fair

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit watchdog group for a toxic-free environment, today urged the public to go for organic products and to compost biodegradable discards towards an ecologically sustainable food system and zero waste community.

As part of the Green  Action Week, a global campaign spearheaded by Consumers International and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, the EcoWaste Coalition co-organized with the Barangay Philam in Quezon City an “Organic Food and Farming Fair” that lured citizens to “go organic” and also to exchange information and knowledge on ecological living.

Speaking at the opening of the event, Dr. Romeo Quijano, President of Pesticide Action Network-Philippines said that “patronizing organic foods will support our farmers’ efforts to curb extensive dependence on hazardous pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and restore ecosystem-based agriculture that is good for consumer health and is also climate and environment-friendly.”

Quijano, a toxicologist, added that the propagation of agroecology will protect farmers and farm workers from occupational and accidental exposures to hazardous substances used in the agricultural sector, many of which can cause serious injuries.

Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, described “composting as probably the cheapest and smartest strategy that consumers as citizens can adopt to address our nation’s mounting waste generation and the resultant disposal problem, as well as deal with our soil’s diminishing fertility and the rising toxic load on our natural ecosystems.”

Composting, Vergara explained, is nature’s way of recycling biodegradable discards such as kitchen and food waste, garden and farm waste, and other organics, which constitute over half of the generated wastes nationwide.

“With composting, we can improve the fertility of the soil, provide essential nutrients to plants, protect plants from pests and diseases, and cut use on toxic farm inputs,” she said.

Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, expressed hope that more communities will promote composting and organic farming to achieve cleaner, greener and safer communities.

At the event, the shoppers and visitors also had the chance of learning about urban gardening, composting and ecological solid waste management, as well as Quezon City’s collection program for busted lamps and used batteries.

Aside from Barangay Philam residents, the event also drew participants from community groups Buklod Tao (San Mateo, Rizal), Piglas Kababaihan (Quezon City), Zone One Tondo Organization (Manila) and the Cavite Green Coalition.

The event was also graced by Environmental Management Bureau Director Juan Miguel Cuna, National Solid Waste Management Commission Executive Director Eli Ildefonso, Barangay Philam Chairman Simplicio Hermogenes, former Quezon City Councilor  Elizabeth Delarmente, Philippine Association of Supermarkets President Carlos Cabochan and EcoWaste Coalition Treasurer Eloisa Tolentino. 

Among the exhibitors of fresh and processed organic foods and other eco-products were the Balangay Cooperative, Buklod Tao, Dumagat Tribe, Taguig Waterlily Livelihood Program, Shoreline Kabalikat sa Kaunlaran, Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya, Villar Foundation and several organic farming practitioners.  . 


06 October 2015

Environmentalists to Push for “Zero Waste” at Summit of Conscience for the Climate


Environmental advocates vowed to espouse waste prevention and reduction measures as ethical and practical solutions to global warming and climate change at a historic summit spearheaded by Senator Loren Legarda.

On October 9, the Senate Committee on Climate Change, together with the Climate Change Commission, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Embassy of France, will convene the Summit of Conscience for the Climate “to inspire Filipinos to act against climate change by caring for our environment.”

Environmentalist Sonia Mendoza, one of the speakers, welcomed the summit as an opportunity “to steer greater citizen and government support to ecological waste management to overcome society’s dependency on landfills and incinerators.”                          

Mendoza, who is Chairperson of Mother Earth Foundation and concurrent President of the EcoWaste Coalition, hoped that the summit “will generate renewed interest and commitment to climate-friendly zero waste strategies, including waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting that save resources and energy while creating jobs and livelihoods.”  

To demonstrate the advantage of the zero waste approach, Mendoza cited the study “More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in US,” which “provides strong evidence that an enhanced national recycling and composting strategy in the United States can significantly and sustainably address critical national priorities including climate change, lasting job creation, and improved health.”

The said study, for instance, estimates that a 75 percent diversion rate for municipal solid waste and construction and demolition debris by 2030 in US alone will result to lower greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to shutting down 72 of the country’s coal power plants, while generating 2.3 million jobs. 

As politicians gear up for the 2016 polls, Mendoza further urged those seeking elective posts to emphasize climate and environmental protection in their platforms and to walk the talk by campaigning in a responsible manner that will not cause harm to humans and the ecosystems. 

“We need a new breed of political leaders who will stand up and take action for climate, environmental, health, gender and social justice.  In particular, we need leaders who will champion the enforcement of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and other environmental laws,” she said. 

At the summit, EcoWaste Coalition volunteers will distribute brochures published by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and the International POPs Elimination Network describing how zero waste strategies are able to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, persistent organic pollutants, mercury and other dangerous pollutants, among other advantages.

The Summit of Conscience for the Climate in Manila is an adaptation of the first Summit held on July 21, 2015 in Paris, France where various political, faith, culture and arts and environmental leaders met to influence negotiations at an upcoming United Nations conference.   

On November 30 to December 11, negotiators and other stakeholders will troop to Paris for the much anticipated 21st Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (COP21) and hopefully reach agreement aimed at keeping global warming below 2°C.



05 October 2015

Groups Push Improved Information Sharing within ASEAN to Protect Consumers from Unsafe Products

As the nation observes the Consumer Welfare Month (CWM) this October, public interest groups urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to strengthen mechanisms for sharing product hazard and safety information as the region moves towards economic integration.

The Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF) and the EcoWaste Coalition jointly called for improved information sharing on product recalls and product safety-related incidents in line with this year’s theme for the CWM: "Consumer Protection in the Asean Economic Community."

“As various sectors tackle the hurdles towards regional economic integration, ASEAN member states need to work double time to bolster consumer product safety regulations to protect consumers from inferior quality and unsafe products, including those sold in e-commerce, that can put consumer health at risk,” said Rene Pineda, President of CRSF, a member group of the National Consumer Affairs Council.

“In line with the consumer right to know, current mechanisms for sharing information on products that pose serious threats to health as well as to the environment should be reviewed and strengthened and be made more publicly available,” added Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

A system for more efficient notification and public disclosure procedures on hazardous and substandard products have become more important as impediments for cross-border trade are removed, especially with the emergence of on-line commerce, the groups said.

The ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection (ACCP) launched in 2012 the website www.aseanconsumer.org to serve as the main reference point for consumers on matters pertaining to certain banned or recalled products.

The website contains “Lists of Official Recalled/Banned Products and Voluntary Recalled/Banned Products in ASEAN” based on submissions by member states.

The effectiveness of the said website, the groups said, should be reviewed with inputs from all stakeholders to determine necessary improvements that should be introduced.

According to the ASEAN-published “Consumer Protection Digests and Case Studies: A Policy Guide,” “defective  products  impose  various  direct  and indirect  costs  on  consumers and  the  broader  community.”

“A particular concern in developed countries worldwide (and increasingly now  middle-income countries), including among ASEAN Member States, has been  the influx of low-priced manufactured goods from major exporting nations,” the report said.

“ASEAN  Member  States  are  also  increasingly  integrated  into  pan-Asian production chains, with components being sourced in the region for assembly and  exporting  to  developed  country  markets  through  a  rapidly  growing network of free trade agreements,” the report also noted.




03 October 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Appeals to Poll Candidates to Protect the Mother Earth

A non-profit watchdog group for chemical safety and zero waste asked political aspirants to exercise environmental stewardship as the election season heats up.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the plea on behalf of Mother Earth as candidates for all elective positions in the 2016 polls prepare to file their certificates of candidacy (COCs) on October 12-16.

“We appeal to all candidates for the May 2016 polls not to pay lip service to environmental protection to woo voters.  Candidates often say ‘I will serve the people and protect the environment,’ but fail to match words with deeds,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“In the period leading up to the elections, we ask all candidates and their backers regardless of their political colors to show authentic concern for Mother Earth by campaigning in a responsible manner that will cause no harm to public health and the environment,” she said.

“From the filing of their COCs to the designated campaign period, we urge candidates to be mindful of what they do to prevent and reduce the wasting of resources and the dirtying of the surroundings.  Please refrain from being a ‘garpol’,” she emphasized.

The EcoWaste coined the term "garpol," a wordplay of "garbage" and "politician," to describe a wasteful politico who does not mind throwing away resources and generating loads  of trash as long as he or she gets the votes of the electorate.

The filing of COCs, for example, should be done in a simple way sans extravagant gimmicks, motorcades and wasteful use of propaganda materials that will only add to garbage, pollution and traffic woes, the EcoWaste Coalition suggested.

As the official campaign period has yet to commence, the EcoWaste Coalition urged candidates to shun premature campaigning out of delicadeza.

“Premature campaigning such as the tarps with the faces and names of politicos nailed on trees leaves a bad taste to the mouth,”  Lucero said.

As per Comelec Resolution 9981, the campaign period for the presidential, vice-presidential and senatorial  candidates and party-list groups will begin  on February 9 to May 7, 2016, while the campaign period for congressional and other local elective positions will start on March 25 to May 7, 2016.

As in previous elections, the EcoWaste Coalition will actively promote waste prevention and reduction before, during and after the campaign period, and call attention to practices that pose hazard to human health and the environment.