28 November 2015

EcoWaste Coalitions Joins the November 28 "March for Climate Justice Pilipinas"

"The EcoWaste Coalition asks the Paris Climate Conference to aim for an ambitious and fair agreement that will radically and rapidly reduce global warming pollution, protect human health and the environment, and ensure food security, sustainable livelihood and climate justice, particularly in climate disaster-prone nations and communities.  We specifically ask governments to include zero waste programs among their priority mitigation plans and shun deceptive solutions such as waste-to-energy incineration."

26 November 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Toxic Lead in Baby Cribs, Urges DOH to Initiate Recall Order

To mark the National Children’s Month, the EcoWaste Coalition held a press briefing today to draw the attention of government regulators and parents on lead-containing baby furniture and the urgent need to prevent infant exposure to toxic lead.

“Our discovery of lead in locally-made cribs prompted us to hold this event in order to inform the public and to push the government to act, on the basis of the precautionary principle, to protect helpless babies from being exposed to toxic lead in paint chip and dust,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Using a handheld  X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, high levels of lead were detected  on the yellow painted balls of two locally-made wooden cribs that the group bought from furniture stores in Maypajo, Caloocan City and Sta. Cruz, Manila City.

The yellow coated balls of the crib from Maypajo, costing P2,000, had lead content reaching 7 ,871 parts per million (ppm), and the one from Sta. Cruz, costing P1,000, had 6,938 ppm, exceeding the target 90 ppm maximum allowable limit for lead in paint under the DENR Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.

Dizon clarified that not all of the painted balls on the cribs had lead.  Lead was not detected on the blue, red and turquoise colored balls, as well as in the white-coated frame, providing evidence that lead-safe paints are available for use in children’s furniture. 

“While this is not the first time that we detected lead on children’s furniture, we were deeply shocked to find lead on infant beds that may be exposing babies to this health-damaging substance at an extremely sensitive stage of their development,” he said.

Dizon recalled that in 2013, seven kiddie chairs sent by the EcoWaste Coalition to a private laboratory were found to contain lead up to 20,680 ppm.

The EcoWaste Coalition is concerned that the lead painted surfaces will crack or peel over time and get ingested by babies. 

“Babies may swallow the leaded paint chips or leaded dust through their usual hand to mouth behaviour.  They may even bite on the lead-painted balls, especially during the teething phase, thus increasing the risk of exposure,” Dizon said.

For her part Dr. Annabelle Sinlao stated that “even at very low exposures, lead causes serious and permanent health effects, especially for children, such as brain and central nervous system damage, mental retardation, decreased bone and muscle growth, hearing, speech and language problems,   learning disabilities, low school performance, poor impulse control and aggressive behaviour.  Sinlao is lecturer at Manila Central University College of Medicine and resource person of Health Care Without Harm.   
Quoting the World Health Organization’s study on “Childhood Lead Poisoning,” the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized that “the  consequences  of   brain  injury  from  exposure  to  lead  in  early  life are  loss  of   intelligence,  shortening  of   attention  span  and  disruption  of  behavior.”

According to WHO, “the  human  brain  has  little  capacity  for  repair,  these effects  are  untreatable  and  irreversible.  They cause diminution in brain function and reduction in achievement that last throughout life.”

The WHO has warned that “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage,” stressing “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”

Chemist Jeiel Guarino, Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaigner of IPEN (an international NGO network promoting safe chemicals policies and practices), said that “it’s our shared responsibility to remove sources of lead pollution in children’s environment such lead-containing paints used at homes, schools, day care centers and playgrounds.”

“While the phase-out period for lead-containing decorative paints will take effect in December 2016, we urge paint consumers, including furniture makers, to choose lead safe paints to curb childhood lead poisoning,” he said, adding that “a range of paints without added lead are available in hardware and paint stores.”

To prevent potential childhood lead exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition has asked the Department of Health (DOH) as well as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to act.

The EcoWaste Coalition specifically requested DOH Secretary Janette Garin to initiate a product recall order to prevent the further distribution and sale of the lead-tainted cribs as indicated in the letter that the group sent to the agency on November 25.

The group also urged DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje to consider expanding the list of prohibited uses of lead under the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds to include the prohibition on the use of lead in the production of children’s furniture and other items that are likely to cause childhood lead exposure.

At present, the said Chemical Control Order bans the use of lead in the production of school supplies and toys, among other things.



23 November 2015

Zero Waste Groups Join Clamor for Climate Justice ahead of Paris Climate Conference

Groups championing zero waste as an authentic and cost-effective solution to the climate crisis have added their voice to the clamor for climate justice ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference on November 30 to December 11 in France.

Through a joint press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) and Oceana Philippines urged government negotiators at the upcoming climate talks to support an ambitious, fair and legally binding agreement to dramatically and rapidly cut global warming pollution and promote climate justice.

In solidarity with grassroots communities and sectors who are most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change to livelihood, health and environment, the groups expressed support for the November 28 “March for Climate Justice Pilipinas” organized by the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.

The groups pressed negotiators to embrace zero waste solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to the waste sector, particularly from disposal activities such as waste incineration, dumping and landfilling.

“GAIA calls on all governments to include zero waste initiatives in their mitigation actions and, thus, finance zero waste solutions instead of false solutions like waste to energy technologies, and come up with firmer carbon accounting systems to weed out bogus actions from real,” said Paeng Lopez, Campaigner at Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

According to GAIA, “zero waste solutions—including waste reduction, redesign, composting, biogas, producer responsibility, consumption transformation, and recycling—could be implemented today, using existing innovations, with immediate results.”

Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, identified some specific measures, which, if carried out, would mean reduced emission of polluting gases from the burning and burying of discards, as well as from the linear production and consumption systems that depend on constant extraction of materials and use of energy to produce new goods.

“Some of these measures include stopping biodegradable materials from being disposed of in landfills and incinerators, upholding the incineration ban under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, phasing out single-use plastic products and packaging and providing incentives for locally-based reuse, recycling and composting programs, jobs and businesses,” she said.

Vergara also emphasized the importance of recognizing and integrating waste pickers who divert organics, recyclables and reusable resource materials from dumps, landfills or incinerators as stewards of greenhouse gas mitigation.,

Sonia Mendoza, Chairman of MEF, stated: “Let’s leave our children with a living planet.  Harness clean and sustainable energy from the sun, wind and biogas, not from coal, incinerators and nuclear power.”

For her part lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Vice-President of Oceana Philippines, said: “With the global decline of fish stocks, including in the Philippines, and the devastation of natural ecosystems due to our own irresponsible and fossil fuel dependent lifestyles, the impacts of climate change which are now felt by fisherfolks and have affected them deeply, will surely exacerbate the already  worrisome state.  We urge nations to cut the greenhouse gas emissions now and mainstream sustainable fisheries management and in the production and consumption of goods.  Think food security.  Think of our children’s future.”


21 November 2015

Watchdog Group Tells PM Trudeau to Take Back Canada’s Trash Now While Legal Loopholes Are Being Fixed

The EcoWaste Coalition, a watchdog group for chemical safety and zero waste, urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to order the immediate return to Canada of their botched illegal trash shipments while his government devise a “Canadian solution” to solve the festering dumping scandal.     

The group insisted that the illegal garbage imports have nowhere to go but Canada and that the development of a “Canadian solution” should not be used as an excuse to justify the extended stay of the trash consignments in the country for temporary storage or permanent disposal. 

At a press conference held yesterday, Trudeau stated that a “Canadian solution” is being crafted to plug the loopholes that allowed the export of Canadian trash to the Philippines, but made no commitment on taking back their garbage as firmly demanded by concerned groups, legislators and citizens.

“I have obviously been made aware of the situation and I’ve also been told that there is a Canadian solution in the process of being developed. But, at the same time, I know that this has exposed a problem that needs fixing within our own legislation that we’re going to lean into and make sure happens,” Trudeau said.

In reaction, Rene Pineda, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said: “Prime Minister Trudeau must have been made aware that the Basel Convention has become part of the laws of countries that acceded to it through their ratification.  And that their enabling law cannot be inferior than the Convention.”

Pineda was referring to a legally-binding treaty called the “Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal,” which includes Canada and the Philippines as state parties, that aims to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes and other wastes.

“And when he admits the loopholes in Canada’s enabling law, then that’s an indictment of their violation of the Basel Convention.  As no amount of amendment to Canada’s law would extricate them from culpability and international shame, Trudeau should have seized the golden opportunity to display real statemanhood required of every leader and commit to re-importing Canada’s garbage.  What a waste, what a shame!” he said.

To effectively plug the loopholes that have caused trade in hazardous wastes to flourish, Pineda challenged the governments of both Canada and the Philippines to ratify the “Basel Ban Amendment.”

The “Basel Ban Amendment,” introduced in 1995, prohibits highly industrialized countries from exporting hazardous wastes to developing countries “for final disposal, reuse, recycling and recovery.” This amendment to the Basel Convention has yet to enter into force.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier commented that “unless the Philippine government ratifies the ‘Basel Ban Amendment’ and reflects its intent in our national laws, the country will continue to be a recipient of hazardous garbage from overseas, made possible under the guise of recycling or recovery.“

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago in September 2014 filed a resolution calling for “an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on ways to decisively prevent illegal waste dumping from abroad, including the ratification of the ‘Basel Convention Ban Amendment’ and other legal measures to protect the country from becoming a global dump for hazardous wastes.”

From June 2013 to January 2014, a total of 103 container vans of mixed garbage from Canada, misdeclared as “plastic scraps” for recycling, entered the country in 10 batches and subsequently intercepted by customs authorities.

After sitting in the ports, 26 containers of these trash consignments were illegally disposed of at the Metro Clark Landfill in Tarlac between June 26 to July 8, 2015, drawing the ire of local officials and residents.


19 November 2015

Omission of Garbage Issue in Aquino-Trudeau Bilateral Talk Dismays Environmental and Labor Leaders

Omission of Garbage Issue in Aquino-Trudeau Bilateral Meeting Dismays Environmental and Labor Leaders

The conspicuous exclusion of the Canadian garbage dumping issue in yesterday’s bilateral talk between President Benigno S. Aquino III and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit drew a chorus of disapproval and protest from environmental and labor leaders.

“What a total letdown!  Aquino and Trudeau both missed the chance to exercise real leadership and do the right thing.  They could have demonstrated to the world what bilateral trade should not look like.  Ignoring and sweeping the Canadian garbage scandal under the carpet will not earn you the respect of your people and other nations,” said environmentalist Von Hernandez, 2003 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, 2007 Time Hero of the Environment, previous Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and former President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“It’s a shame that Mr. Trudeau and new members of his government chose not to take responsibility over the Canadian garbage that has been soiling good relations between Canadians and Filipinos for some time now.  By not acting toward his government taking back the stinking trash from the Philippine soil for good, the Filipino people will now begin to doubt Mr. Trudeau’s sincerity and capacity to lead the Canadian people to his campaign promise of an environment-caring shared prosperity,” said Alan Tanjusay, Spokesperson of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

“This is unconscionable!  It sends the message to our trading partners that our people’s welfare is for sale,” said Josua Mata, Secretary-General, Sentro ng mgaNagkakaisa at ProgresibongManggagawa (SENTRO).

Rene Pineda, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said: “Much to our regret, we are forced to seek redress and judicially compel the Philippine government to do its mandated duty under our national laws and the Basel Convention and require Canada to take back its waste.” 

Had Trudeau made the right move to resolve the issue, the EcoWaste Coalition, a watchdog group for chemical safety and zero waste, would have reacted differently and would have released the following statement: 

“He did not fail us!  Hats off to PM Trudeau for heeding our plea for environmental justice that his unbending predecessor Stephen Harper chose to ignore.  We’re sure that Filipinos will remember him not only for his towering height and good looks, but for this splendid ‘gift of justice’ to fix a long drawn-out dumping scandal that has pricked the national consciousness, dignity and pride.”

The group would have also said: “We hope that this controversy will conclude with both Canada and the Philippines taking firm action to prevent the recurrence of such illegal waste trade, including the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment that prohibits hazardous waste exports from developed to developing countries for recycling and final disposal.”

From June 2013 to January 2014, a total of 103 container vans of mixed garbage from Canada, misdeclared as “plastic scraps” for recycling, entered the country in 10 batches and subsequently intercepted by customs authorities.  

After sitting in the ports, 26 containers of these trash consignments were illegally disposed of at the Metro Clark Landfill in Tarlac between June 26 to July 8, 2015, drawing the ire of local officials and residents.

The Tarlac provincial board then stopped the illegal dumping, prompting other local government units such as the province of Bulacan and  Navotas and Quezon Cities, to follow suit and prohibit foreign waste disposal in local landfills to protect the public health and the environment.


18 November 2015

Environmentalists Welcome PM Justin Trudeau. Beseech Him to Leave Behind a “Gift of Justice” (Civil Society Leaders Pin Hopes on Canada’s New Prime Minister to Resolve Trash Issue)

Civil society leaders opposed to the illegal shipment of some 103 container vans of garbage from Canada renewed their call for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to rectify a blatant case of environmental injustice.

Trudeau arrived yesterday for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting that will take place today and tomorrow, which has “building inclusive economies, building a better world” for its theme.
“We warmly welcome Prime Minister Trudeau to Manila and we remain optimistic that he will soon make a historic statement confirming Canada’s decision to re-import their garbage,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“This will be a ‘gift of justice from Justin’ that a grateful Filipino nation will cherish and remember,” she said.   

“It’s a ‘new day’ in Canada with the election of Trudeau, a young, culturally-sensitive, gender-fair and change-oriented leader. We hope it will be a ‘new day’ too for Canada-Philippine relations with the former unhesitatingly taking back their trash to bring an awful dumping scandal to a close,” she said.  

Abigail Aguilar, Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia told Trudeau: “Your predecessor, Stephen Harper was blind and deaf to the plea of Filipinos. Now, all eyes are on you as we look for a leader who will take a stand and have the heart to make a decision on this ugly issue of petrifying waste that has been festering in the Philippines for so long now.”

“The Canadian waste issue is a test on how you treat your allies. It is a test of how you honor your international obligations, as this waste dumping issue violates the tenets of the Basel Convention, which both our countries have signed,” she emphasized.

For his part, Rene Pineda, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition said:  “Long-held by Canadians as the kind of politics that earned for them global admiration and respect, and that his father, former and late Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, had upheld for a long time and taught him early as a kid, Canada's true-to-form governance that is anchored on respect for human dignity is expected of their new leader.”

“The Filipino people deserve respect. They are hopeful that the new Canadian government will treat them equally, not as an inconsequential member of the global community,” he further said.

Romy Hidalgo, NGO Representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission, reminded Prime Minister Trudeau that the reeking Canadian garbage have nowhere to go but Canada. 

“No local officials in their right frame of mind will agree to be a dumping ground for Canada’s rubbish,” he said.

From July to September this year, Hidalgo said that government officials from Bulacan and Tarlac Provinces, as well as from Navotas and Quezon Cities, have issued pronouncements or resolutions banning foreign waste disposal in local landfills.

Among the many groups asking Canada to take back their garbage are the Akbayan Party List, Ang NARS Party List, Associated Labor Unions – Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Ateneo School of Government, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Ban Toxics, Bayan Muna Party List, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Convergence, Greenpeace, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, Mother Earth Foundation, Piglas Kababaihan,  Pimentel Institute for Leadership and Governance, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa and Zero Waste Philippines.


17 November 2015

Joint IDIS-EcoWaste Coalition Press Release: Groups Alert Consumers vs Mercury-Laced Skin Whitening Creams Being Sold in Davao City

Davao City/Quezon City.   Two environmental health groups today cautioned consumers seeking fairer skin tone to watch out for banned skin whitening cosmetics laden with toxic mercury.

The Davao City-based Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) and the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition issued the joint warning against dangerous cosmetics with undisclosed amounts of mercury after finding them in store shelves in Davao City.

The illegal products are still available on the market despite the ocular inspections conducted by the City Health Office and the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) Region XI in some retail outlets last April, the groups observed. 

"The continued sale of banned mercury-laden skin whitening products is a serious threat to public health and should stop at once.  Cosmetics retailers should only offer registered products that are safe from mercury and other substances that are damaging to human health," said Ann Fuertes, Executive Director of IDIS.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes mercury as "toxic to human health" and lists it among the "ten chemicals of major public health concern."  

"Exposure to mercury even at very low doses is detrimental to health and should be avoided," emphasized Fuertes.   

"We hope that the Davao City authorities will take immediate action to cut the supply of these dangerous cosmetics and severely penalize those involved in the illegal trade of mercury-added skin lightening creams," said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.    

IDIS and EcoWaste Coalition urged the authorities to conduct frequent surprise inspections on a regular basis to rid the market of these contraband goods, as well as pass an ordinance to systematically address issues and concerns on toxic chemicals.

In test buys conducted last November 11, Dizon, who was then visiting Davao City, managed to buy nine skin whitening products that were among those banned by the FDA for violating the 1 part per million (ppm) threshold limit for mercury under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

The products were obtained from cosmetics and herbal product retailers at DCLA Shopping Center and from a kiosk at Plaza Luisita for P50 to P150 each.

Among these nine products were Bihuayn, Erna, Jiaoli, S'zitang and Yinni skin whitening creams. 

Subsequent screening in Quezon City using an X-Ray Fluorescence device detected mercury up to 5,445 ppm in the samples, way above the allowable limit of 1 ppm.

The top three samples with the highest mercury content were a S'Zitang two-jar skin whitening cream in gold box with 5,445 ppm,  Yinni Green Tea Quickacting Whitener & Speckle Remover Package with 5,085 ppm and a S'Zitang single jar skin whitening cream with 4,899 ppm.

Health studies have indicated that exposure to mercury – even in  low  amounts  –  may  have  toxic  effects  on  the  nervous,  digestive,  immune,  respiratory  and  urinary systems, may  damage the skin  and may  present "a threat  to  the  development of  the  child  in utero and early in life." 

Direct users of mercury-laced skin whitening cosmetics may experience skin discoloration, rashes and scarring and reduced skin's resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, while repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, the nervous system and the kidneys.

Mercury compounds in skin whitening cosmetics can enter the human body mainly via skin absorption as well as inhalation.

In February this year, the EcoWaste Coalition published the "Beauty and the Risk" report documenting the widespread sale of contraband mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics in 50 cities, including in Davao City and 11 other cities in Mindanao.

To curb the illegal trade in mercury-containing skin lightening cosmetics, the report stressed that Filipinos should "take pride in our natural skin complexion."

"There is beauty and dignity in our 'kayumangging kaligatan,' so refrain from using skin bleaching, lightening or whitening products, particularly contraband cosmetics that have not gone through formal notification or registration with the FDA and not guaranteed safe from mercury, hydroquinone and other harmful substances," the report said.


Mothers Beware: Some Cribs May Expose Babies to Toxic Lead (Watchdog Finds Toxic Lead in Locally-Made Cribs, Calls for Regulatory Action)

Photos of "Maypajo" (white painted frame) and "Sta. Cruz" (unpainted frame) cribs.

Mothers should be extra cautious when picking cribs for their babies as those decorated with lead-containing paints can cause brain and central nervous system damage and delayed development if ingested or inhaled.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a watchdog group promoting children’s health and safety from toxic chemicals and wastes, urged parents to exercise their rights as consumers to product information and safety after detecting dangerous levels of lead in locally-made wooden cribs with painted ornaments.

The group issued the advisory as the country marks the National Children’s Month this November in line with Republic Act 10661 signed by President Benigno S. Aquino III in May 2015.

"We are awfully horrified to find lead paint in cribs that could be exposing our babies and toddlers to lead and other toxic chemicals at a very delicate stage of their development," said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Echoing a warning by the World Health Organization (WHO), the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated "there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe."

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group detected excessive lead on the yellow coated wooden balls adorning two locally manufactured cribs that group purchased on November 15 and 16 from affordable furniture stores in Sta. Cruz, Manila City and Maypajo, Caloocan City for P1,000 and P2,000, respectively.

The "Sta. Cruz" crib had lead content reaching 7,871 parts per million (ppm) and the "Maypajo" crib had 6,938 ppm of lead, way above the 90 ppm maximum allowable limit for lead in paint under the DENR Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.

Lead was not detected on the blue, red and turquoise colored wooden balls, as well as in the white-coated frame, indicating the availability of lead-safe paints in the market.

"Lead-coated accessories such as colorful spinning balls are not safe and must not be present in childcare products such as infant beds," he pointed out.

Dizon explained that babies may swallow lead in flakes or dust as the paint cracks or peels over time.  Babies may even bite on the lead-painted balls, especially during the teething phase, directly ingesting paint chips with high amounts of lead.

Dr. Visitacion Antonio,  Officer-in-Charge of the Outpatient Department of the East Avenue Medical Center and resource person of the EcoWaste Coalition, stated that "lead interferes with normal brain development and the damage caused by chronic, low-level exposure to lead is sadly permanent."

Citing information from World Health Organization (WHO) publications, Antonio said that childhood lead exposure can cause damage to the central nervous system and is linked to decreased intelligence as measured by IQ tests, reduced school performance and behavioral problems, including aggression and violence.

According to WHO, “childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of children developing intellectual disabilities every year.”

"Lead exposure is estimated to account for 143 000 deaths per year with the highest burden in developing regions," the WHO said.

"Children at highest risk are the very young (including the developing fetus) and the impoverished," it further said.

Aside from lead, the XRF device also detected significant traces of arsenic, chromium and mercury on the yellow colored paint in the wooden balls.

The EcoWaste Coalition will report its findings to the Department of Health and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for appropriate regulatory action.




16 November 2015

13 November 2015

Civil Society Leaders Ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Take Back Illegal Garbage Shipments from Canada

Visiting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada can turn a long-stinking garbage dumping scandal into an opportunity to correct a brazen case of environmental injustice by doing what is right. 

At a press conference held prior to the arrival of the newly-installed leader of Canada for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, environmental, health and labor leaders noted the "winds of change" brought about by Trudeau's rise to power as they  expressed optimism that he will determinedly act to resolve the garbage controversy spanning over two years.

Among those present were the officials of Ang NARS Party List, Ban Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Convergence, Greenpeace, Mother Earth Foundation, Public Services Labor Independent Labor Confederation and the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa.

"We hope that the winds of change blowing across Canada will lead to Trudeau's Cabinet wasting no time to re-import the illegally exported garbage to the Philippines and bring this prolonged controversy to a close.  Such action will show that his government does not and will not condone illegal garbage trade that is treating low and middle-income countries as dumps," said Rene Pineda, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog group for chemical safety and zero waste.

For her part, Ang NARS Party List Rep. Leah Paquiz reiterated that lawmakers from both chambers of the Congress believe that the Philippine government must return the illegal garbage imports and that the Canadian government must take them back pursuant to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal to which Canada and the Philippines are state parties.

"In fact, the Committee on Ecology of the House of Representatives had written to its counterpart in the Canadian Parliament to express its 'united position' that the botched 50 containers of garbage shipments and those exported thereafter should be re-imported by Canada in line with the Basel Convention.  We hope that Canadian lawmakers will cross party lines and unanimously back our position," she added.  "Let us all exercise ethical trade as we raise the gear to free trade," the legislator emphasized.

Shalimar Vitan, Chief operations officer of Ban Toxics, pointed out that the APEC summit in Manila is a fitting occasion to re-think transhipment policies on waste and an opportunity for PM Trudeau to immediately resolve the Canadian garbage issue.  

"With PM Trudeau at the helm, we expect the Canadian government to turn around the previous stonewalling by the Harper government, to make things right and just, and take back the waste that Canada exported to the Philippines," said Vitan.

Pineda, Paquiz and Vitan further expressed their hope that the Canadian garbage issue will be duly taken up and resolved during the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Benigno S. Aquino III.

From June to September 2013, over 50 container vans of mixed garbage from Canada, consigned to Chronic Plastics, entered the port of Manila and subsequently intercepted by customs authorities.

After languishing in the port for months, 26 of the 50 garbage-filled containers were illegally disposed of at the Metro Clark landfill in Capas, Tarlac between June 26 to July 8, 2015 until revealed and stopped by incensed provincial government leaders and their constituents.

In May 2015, customs authorities discovered 48 more container vans of mixed garbage from Canada, consigned to Live Green Enterprises, bringing the total number of illegal Canadian waste shipments to some 103 shipping containers.


11 November 2015

Toxics Watchdog Urges 2016 Political Aspirants to Integrate Chemical Safety in their Platforms

The EcoWaste Coalition, a watchdog group on wastes and toxic chemicals, urged aspiring public servants across the whole political spectrum to champion the right of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable populations, to chemical safety.

“As political parties, party list groups and independent contenders brace up for the election heat, we call on them to address the people’s right to live and work in a toxics-free environment in their
platforms,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“More often than not, politicians tend to put chemical and waste issues at the bottom of their campaign priorities and promises, if at all,” she observed.

“Needless to say, we need champions at all levels of the government who will initiate and support policy initiatives that will reduce human exposure to hazardous and toxic chemicals and wastes,” she

With the adoption by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of “The People’s Right to Chemical Safety: A Fifteen-Point Human Rights Agenda,” the EcoWaste Coalition expressed confidence that politicians and their advisers will pay more attention to chemical and waste issues, which affect everyone, but especially the vulnerable sectors.

According to the CHR, among the most affected vulnerable sectors are women of child-bearing age, children, elderly, indigenous, peoples, farmers, workers, persons with disabilities, and persons with chemical sensitivities.

Adopted on November 14, 2014, the CHR advisory aims “to serve as guide in the matter of the people’s right to chemical safety… with toxics-free society as our ultimate goal.”

According to the CHR, the “15-point human rights agenda on chemical safety, by and large, reflect the paramount importance of applying the principles of precaution, pollution prevention, public participation, polluter pays, sustainable development, environmental justice and other key elements of chemical safety such as green design, toxic use reduction and substitution, ‘no data, no market,’ and freedom of information.”

The CHR emphasized the need for “health-based and human rights-based policies on chemicals” and provided recommendations, including promoting chemical accident prevention and preparedness, zero waste resource management, ban on toxic waste trade, as well as chemical safety in agriculture, healthcare and workplace.

“We hope that all presidential candidates and their respective slates will find it imperative to study, embrace and even bolster CHR’s chemical safety agenda and contribute to its realization from words to deed,” Lucero said.

Lucero confirmed that the EcoWaste Coalition has started popularizing the CHR’s chemical safety agenda among public interest groups in Mindanao and then in the Visayas.


09 November 2015

Environmental and Labor Groups Urge Visiting Canadian PM to Put Garbage Controversy to Rest (PM Justin Trudeau Asked to Bring "Gift of Justice"


Environmental and labor groups today asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to honor the Filipino people with a “gift of justice” when he visits the country next week for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.

Ang NARS Party List, EcoWaste Coalition and the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) said that Trudeau’s upcoming visit provides a perfect opportunity for his newly installed government to bring the over two-year Canadian garbage dumping scandal to a close.

“This is the ‘gift of justice’ that we want Prime Minister Trudeau to bring from Ottawa to Manila: a clear-cut commitment stating Canada’s responsibility to take back their garbage without further complication and delay, as well as pay for the multi-million peso storage fees and other lawful charges,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Rep. Leah Paquiz of Ang NARS Party List, who twice filed a resolution asking Congress to act on the issue, said: “Prime Minister Trudeau was elected by the Canadian people on a platform for change.  It will be totally disappointing if he takes no notice of our plea for Canada to re-import their trash like what his predecessor Stephen Harper did.”

“We ask Prime Minister Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to cause the immediate removal of the Canada’s waste from our ports in accordance with international law, and as a meaningful gesture of gratitude and respect for the over 700,000 people of Filipino origin who are living and working in Canada,” said Josua Mata, Secretary-General of the national labor center SENTRO.  

The three groups further urged both the governments of Canada and the Philippines, which are signatories to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits highly industrialized nations from exporting hazardous waste to developing nations “for final disposal, reuse, recycling and recovery.”

The groups noted that the House Committee on Ecology, which included Paquiz as member, had written to the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Environment and Sustainable Development of Canada invoking the Basel Convention as basis for asking Canada to re-import their illegal garbage shipments.

The Committee specifically cited paragraph 2 of Article 9 of the Basel Convention on “Illegal Traffic” stating that “ the State of export shall ensure that the illegal traffic are either: (a) taken back by the exporter or the generator or, if necessary, by itself into the State of export; or, if impracticable, (b) disposed of in accordance with the provisions of this Convention, within 30 days from the time the State of export has been informed about the illegal traffic or such other period of time as States concerned may agree,”

“It must be underscored that its provisions, intentions and underlying principles for governments to take due diligence and responsibility on illegal traffic activities, most specially on wastes emanating from their country, must be diplomatically resolved,” the Committee said.|

“In this connection, we would like to express our united position that the 50 container vans of waste, including those waste exported thereafter, be shipped back by the government of Canada itself, since it cannot compel the shipper to return its containers to Canada pursuant to the Basel Convention,” the Committee emphasized.

Over 50 container vans of mixed garbage from Canada consigned to Chronic Plastics arrived in the port of Manila between June to September 2013, and were subsequently intercepted by customs authorities.  After sitting in the port for months, 26 of these garbage-filled containers were illegally dumped at the Metro Clark landfill in Capas, Tarlac between June 26 to July 8, 2015 until exposed and stopped by the provincial authorities.

As the controversy raged on, customs authorities in May 2015 discovered 48 more container vans of mixed garbage from Canada, consigned to Live Green Enterprises, bringing the total number of illegal Canadian trash shipments to some 103 shipping containers.


07 November 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Hails CBCP’s Stand vs “Religious Ivory,” Urges Bishops to Say “No” to “Religious Lead” As Well

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, urged the country’s Catholic bishops to also say “no” to the use of lead, a hazardous chemical, in religious statues and other devotional objects. 

The group issued the statement after Archbishop Socrates Villegas, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, appealed to his fellow bishops to shun the use of materials extracted or derived from protected or endangered animals for devotional items to discourage illegal ivory trade.

“I appeal to my brother bishops of the Philippines to prohibit the clerics from blessing any new statue, image or object of devotion made or crafted from such material as ivory or similar body parts of endangered or protected, nor shall such new statues or images be used as objects of veneration in any of our churches,” Villegas said.

The EcoWaste Coalition lauded Villegas and the CBCP for taking an unequivocal stand against “religious ivory” and expressed its hope that that Catholic Church will likewise speak out against “religious lead.”

“We pray that the CBCP will similarly call for a stop to the use of lead-containing paint in religious images, as well as lead-containing pewter in religious pendants, to make devotional objects safe, especially for young children who are most vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.   

According to the World Health Organization, “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.” However, “lead poisoning is entirely preventable,” the WHO said.

“We also hope that such a stand will catalyze the adoption of lead-safe paint procurement policy in churches and church-related facilities, including educational institutions, hospitals, orphanages, cemeteries and other facilities run by religious congregations,” Lucero said. 

Such a position will support and advance the national and global phase-out targets for lead paint, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.
Lucero recalled alerting the CBCP about the high levels of lead in some religious images sold in Quiapo and Sta. Cruz, Manila through letters sent in April and June of last year.

A case in point is a 6-inch statue of St. John Paul II that the EcoWaste Coalition sent to a government-accredited private laboratory for total lead content analysis.  As per laboratory report, the saint’s yellow chasuble was found to contain 113,200 parts per million (ppm) lead, way above the 90 ppm threshold limit for lead in paint under the DENR’s Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds and the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Previous chemical screening conducted by the group using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device detected varying levels of lead in painted statues of Familia Sagrada, Santo Niño de Cebu, Santo de la Suerte, St. John Paul II, St. Joseph, St. Therese of Lisieux and even Pope Francis.

“We consider the presence of lead in religious statues as a public health issue as the touching or kissing of revered statues, or wiping them with handkerchiefs or towels, may cause their paint coatings to be disturbed and to come off in time, contaminating the dust with lead that the faithful may ingest or inhale as they kiss or touch the sculpture,” Lucero said.

Dr. Scott Clark, professor emeritus of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati, USA, who advises the EcoWaste Coalition on the issue of lead paint said that: “Children 6 years old and under are most at risk because they  are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead.  They absorb a higher percentage of the lead and their systems are developing at a higher rate.  They also tend to put things in their mouth more often, including non-food things like toys.”

Finally, the group reiterated its hope that the CBCP will use its moral authority to persuade religious craft makers to produce devotional pendants that are safe from lead.

The group had earlier detected exceptionally high levels of lead in pewter or pewter-like religious pendants with lead content ranging from 170,000 ppm to 420,000 ppm.




05 November 2015

Watchdog Raises “Lead Alert” over Toxic Christmas Lights


A non-profit watchdog group on toxic chemicals in products and wastes reminded consumers to watch out for Christmas lights that may pose serious life-threatening hazard as well as contribute to lead pollution.  

The EcoWaste Coalition issued the reminder soon after law enforcers belonging to the Department of Trade and Industry - Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau on Tuesday swooped down on retailers selling uncertified Christmas lights at 168 Shopping Mall in Divisoria, Manila.

“Christmas lights that have not passed the required safety tests may cause electric shock and even overheat leading to fires that can destroy properties, hurt and kill,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

The group cited a tragic fire last Sunday in Barangay Palanan, Makati City that local government and fire authorities blamed on defective Christmas lights and electrical overload from illegal power connection, which killed four people, including three children.

“Some Christmas lights may also contain undisclosed quantities of lead, a toxic metal, in the solder and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic wire covering at levels that would make them illegal to sell in Europe,” he added. 

Under the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), electronic and electrical equipment sold in Europe must not exceed the limits for six hazardous substances, including lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, mercury, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers.  For lead, the limit is 1,000 parts per million (ppm).

According to RoHS, “the restricted materials  are hazardous to the environment and pollute landfills, and are dangerous in terms of occupational exposure during manufacturing and recycling.” 

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a similar RoHS policy in place in the Philippines nor a warning labeling regulation like in California, USA,” he said.

In California, Christmas lights and electronic and electrical equipment with lead are required to carry the following warning label: “Handling the power cord on this product will expose you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. WASH HANDS AFTER HANDLING”

The EcoWaste Coalition had detected excessive lead levels on many Christmas lights sold locally with zero warning level on their toxicity, including those with Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) sticker.

In 2014,  10 of the 15 samples of Christmas lights screened by the group for lead using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device showed lead levels ranging from 1,181 ppm to 5,264 ppm.

In 2013, the group detected lead between 2,689 ppm to 32,500 ppm in 16 out of  20 samples of Christmas lights.  

“Luckily, there are Christmas lights in the market with low or non-detectable lead levels.  Unluckily, Christmas lights are not required to indicate on their labels if the products are safe from lead or not,” Dizon said.

Dizon expressed concern that in time lead in lighting cords may break down into lead dust and contaminate the household.   

“We are also concerned that toxic Christmas lights contribute to our growing e-waste that are often thrown with ordinary trash, burned or improperly recycled, exposing waste collectors and recyclers and neighborhoods to harmful pollutants,” he added.


02 November 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Bewails Extensive Littering in Cemeteries, Gives Awards (Watchdog Gives Cemeteries “Basurapamore” Award, Honors Others with “May Pag-asa,” "Masipag" and “PakoNomore”)

Manila North Cemetery

A non-profit environmental watchdog group lamented the pervasive littering that again tainted the nation’s long-standing tradition of remembering beloved deceased family members and friends.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which had earlier reminded the faithful that cemeteries are places of prayer not dumpsites, decried the throw-away “basurapamore” mania that reared its ugly head and sullied hallowed resting places.

On Sunday, the group sent its Basura Patrollers or litter monitors to 18 public and private cemeteries in 12 local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila (Caloocan, Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Manila, Marikina, Parañaque, Pasay, San Juan, Taguig and Quezon Cities and Pateros), 1 LGU in Rizal (Angono) and 1 LGU in Cavite (Dasmariñas City).

Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, singled out the ban on littering as “the most ignored and violated provision of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act as if the law does not matter at all during Undas.”

“Instead of just leaving flowers and prayers, many cemetery visitors left their trash behind with no sense of environmental responsibility.  Some may think that doing this is tolerable as there are sweepers to clean after.  We say this is not acceptable as littering desecrates the cemeteries and disrespects the dead as well as the living,” she said.       

The group’s Basura Patrollers listed the following as among the most frequently thrown waste materials in the cemeteries: plastic bags and wrappers, plastic cups, bottles and straws, snack packs, polystyrene food and drink containers, disposable paper and plastic plates, pizza boxes, newspapers and cigarette filters.

Recklessly discarded food and water containers, candle receptacles and flower vases may later serve as breeding sites for  dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which can reproduce on trash and clear stagnant water, the group warned.

“This year we give the ‘Basurapamore’ award to cemeteries with bursting garbage bags and bins and littered gutters and streets,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.  Among the recipients were Bagbag Public Cemetery-Quezon City, Manila Memorial Park- Dasmariñas, Manila Memorial Park-Holy Cross, Manila Memorial Park-Parañaque, Manila North Cemetery and Manila South Cemetery.

Bagbag Public Cemetery-Quezon City
Manila North Cemetery-Manila City

Manila South Cemetery-Makati City
Manila Memorial Park (Holy Cross)-Quezon City

"On the other hand, we give cemeteries with minimal or isolated incidents of littering the ‘May Pag-asa’ award,” she continued.  Recipients included the Angono Public Cemetery, Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Anne Cemetery-Taguig, Loyola Memorial Park-Marikina, Loyola Memorial Park- Parañaque, Paradise Private Cemetery-Mandaluyong, San Felipe Neri Catholic Cemetery-Mandaluyong and San Juan City Cemetery.

 San Felipe Neri Catholic Cemetery-Mandaluyong City
 San Juan City Cemetery
 Tzu Chi Foundation Volunteers
 Tzu Chi Foundation Volunteers
 Himlayang Palangyag-Parañaque Waste Pickers
Taguig City Cemetery Sweepers

The EcoWaste Coalition also cited the hardworking Tzu Chi Foundation recycling volunteers, street sweepers and waste pickers for their environmental services and gave them the “Masipag” award.

Manila Memorial Park-Parañaque was given “PakoNOmore” award for heeding the EcoWaste Coalition’s call to stop the nailing of commercial and parking signages on trees.  This cemetery got the “Pako” award from the group in 2013. 

Manila Memorial Park-Parañaque City

Today, November 2, volunteers from the EcoWaste Coalition and the Ecology Ministry of the Parish of San Roque de Manila went back to the Manila North Cemetery to help with the cleanup drive.

The EcoWaste Coalition last October 26 organized a “BasuRUN” led by “running priest” Father Robert Reyes at the Manila North Cemetery to encourage the public to keep the graveyards garbage-free as a sign of respect for our dearly departed ones and for Mother Earth herself.