Brace for the "Battle of Tarpaulins" as Election Nears, Watchdog Warns

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog group, has expressed serious concern over the explosion of politicians’ tarpaulins on streets even before the campaign period for the May 2016 election commences.

The uncontrolled display of tarpaulins in public places to plug the candidacy of aspiring public servants outside the official campaign period has become a public nuisance as well as an environmental issue, the group said.

As per the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) calendar, the campaign period for candidates for President, Vice-President, Senator and party-list groups will start on February 9, while that for the candidates for congressional district representatives, and elective regional, provincial, city, municipal officials will begin on March 25.  The campaign period will finish on May 7.

“In Manila, for example, ‘happy fiesta’ tarpaulins from contending politicians filled the streets of Quiapo as the mammoth Feast of the Black Nazarene was observed last weekend,” said  Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The ‘battle of tarpaulins’ is now underway in Pandacan and Tondo ahead of the popular feast of Santo NiƱo on January 17,” she added.

“This ‘battle’ will continue to rage as politicians take advantage of all imaginable occasions from Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, Lent, Easter to school graduation rites to publicize their names and faces among voters,” she said.

Aside from being annoying or offensive to the senses and posing risk to public safety, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that the unrestrained use and disposal of tarpaulins are adding to the nation’s garbage and toxic woes.

To lessen the waste and toxic threat from tarpaulins, the EcoWaste Coalition advised political aspirants to moderate their use of tarpaulins for self-promotion.

The group specifically reminded Manila’s local politicians to abide by the City Council Resolution No. 420 adopted on October 15, 2015 "urgently appealing to poll candidates to exercise environmental stewardship to protect Mother Earth."

The group further urged political aspirants to follow COMELEC guidelines encouraging 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 asked concerned parties and candidates to add the statement “This material should be recycled” on their campaign materials as proposed by COMELEC to encourage the recycling and discourage the burning or dumping of discarded materials. 

Lucero explained that tarpaulins are not biodegradable, and those sent to the dumpsites and landfills will take a long time to degrade.  She added that tarpaulins are not necessarily benign materials, citing the presence of toxic metals in samples screened in the past. 

She recalled that her group screened 200 pieces of tarpaulins from various candidates for the May 2013 polls using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device and detected toxic cadmium up to 1,279 parts per million (ppm) in 100 percent of the samples and toxic lead up to 1,704 ppm in 25 percent of the samples. 

Citing information from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the EcoWaste Coalition said that “products containing cadmium are not typically collected separately from the general waste stream in developing countries. Therefore cadmium discards will end up in municipal waste and disposed of in landfills, incineration, open burning or indiscriminate dumping.”

“Some of the cadmium in these products will be released to the environment, the extent of which depends on disposal method, control technologies applied and other factors,” the UN agency said.



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