2016 Election Candidates Urged to Champion People's Right to Chemical Safety

Photo by Gigie Cruz

As the nation commemorates the International Human Rights Day, a watchdog group on wastes and toxics called upon the candidates for the 2016 polls to uphold the people’s right to chemical safety.

Through a statement issued to mark the 67th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the EcoWaste Coalition urged political aspirants to add in “The People’s Right to Chemical Safety: A Fifteen-Point Human Rights Agenda” into their electoral platforms.

The said document was adopted by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on November 14, 2014 “to serve as guide in the matter of the people’s right to chemical safety… with toxics-free society as our ultimate goal.”

“Chemical safety at home, school, community and the entire ecosystem is everyone’s business.  To protect the public health and the environment, we ask politicians, especially those eyeing the top elective posts to tell the electorate what they intend to do to cut the harmful effects of hazardous chemicals on humans and ecosystem health,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

She pointed out that strong chemicals regulatory systems and standards are needed, nationally and globally, to reduce, if not eliminate, toxic chemical exposure considering the rapid growth of chemicals production and their widespread use in agriculture and the various industries.

“We hope to hear from our presidential, congressional and senatorial bets about their priority policy and program proposals to reduce chemical pollution and improve the health conditions of the vulnerable populations,” she stated.

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

“For example, we want the candidates to help the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in pushing for the early ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and reduce the adverse health impacts due to exposure to this highly toxic metal,” Lucero said.

The Minamata Convention  provides for controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted.  The Philippines signed the mercury treaty in 2013, but has yet to ratify it.

“We want them to proclaim that our country is no dumping ground for wastes and toxics, and that they will see to it that the Basel Ban Amendment will be ratified by the next administration,” she said.

The Basel Ban Amendment is a revision to the Basel Convention, a global environmental treaty, that seeks to prohibit exports of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries for final disposal, reuse, recycling and recovery.  The Philippines ratified the Basel Convention in 1993, but has not ratified the Basel Ban Amendment.

“Furthermore, we want the candidates to declare their strong support for the ongoing phase-out of lead-containing paints to prevent childhood lead exposure, which can damage the brain and cause irreversible mental impairment,” she said.

“We want them to work for the phase-out of highly hazardous pesticides and the adoption of agro-ecology to promote the health of farmers, farming communities and the ecosystems,” she said.

“We want them to state their stance in favor of holding manufacturers of electronics and other goods responsible for the entire life cycle of their products, including their safe recycling and disposal,” she

“We want them to say that the ban on waste incineration will be enforced and even strengthened to conserve resources and prevent the generation of nasty pollutants that can harm human bodies and pollute the climate,” she said.

Through the chemical safety advisory, the CHR called on national and local authorities "to actively promote zero waste resource management and reject polluting technologies such as incinerators and its variants that burn resources, undermine recycling and recycling jobs, and contaminate communities with health-damaging pollutants.”

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.”