30 March 2016

Environmental Watchdog Lists Questions to Ask Presidential Hopefuls on Wastes and Toxics


Finding their views on environmental concerns at the last presidential debate in Cebu wanting, a watchdog group today asked aspiring successors of President Benigno S. Aquino III to tell the public how really green, or grey, they are.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a member of the electoral advocacy group Green Thumb Coalition, has prepared nine questions on some of the burning issues pertaining to wastes and toxics for the presidential hopefuls to ponder and answer. 

Among the issues covered were the closure of illegal dumpsites, the violation of the ban on waste incineration, the Canadian garbage scandal, the need for safe and secured jobs for the informal waste sector, the “plasticization” of the oceans, the health and environmental threats from e-waste, cadmium pollution, publicly access to environmental data from industrial facilities and the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

“By asking these questions, we hope to draw out the candidates’ views, as well as solutions, on some of the ‘hot’ waste and toxic issues facing our nation today,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The time and space limits of the presidential debate may have restricted the panellists from asking these questions and hindered the candidates from delving on them,” she noted.

“This is a good opportunity for the presidential contenders to communicate to the voters how green or grey they are, and we hope they will respond on or before April 7,” she added.

Below are the questions sent by the EcoWaste Coalition to the presidential bets via e-mail:

1.  The Ombudsman is investigating complaints against 50 local government units for their failure to close garbage dumpsites as required by Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.  What will you do in your first 100 days to promote and secure LGU compliance to R.A. 9003, particularly with respect to the closure and rehabilitation of dumpsites?

2.  R.A. 8749, the Clean Air Act of 1999 and R.A. 9003,  the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 both prohibit waste incineration in the Philippines.  However, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources continuously circumvents this prohibition (a) by coming up with a department order that allowed cement manufacturers to burn pelletized mixed waste in their plants, and now (b) by drafting a guideline for allowing burning waste-to-energy facilities.  If you are elected president, what steps would you take in your first 100 days to stem this continuing violation of the incineration ban under R.A. 8749 and R.A. 9003?  What possible initiatives would you advance in order to strengthen both laws?

3.  Between 2013-2014, a total of 103 shipping containers of mixed household garbage disguised as scrap plastics for recycling were illegally imported from Canada.  Twenty six of these garbage-filled containers were unlawfully disposed of at a landfill in Tarlac in 2015 until halted by angry citizens and officials.  If you get elected as President, what action will you do during your first 100 days in office to ensure that the illegal waste shipments from Canada are sent back?  What will you do to ensure that such appalling dumping incident does not ever happen again?  Will you support the rapid ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment?

4. The informal waste sector contributes tremendously to the reduction of wastes hauled to waste disposal facilities by painstakingly recovering useful discards that can be recycled and returned to commerce.  What is your program to ensure that waste workers are duly recognized for such positive contributions to the environment and the economy, and are provided with safe and secured jobs?

5.  A study released at the recent World Economic Forum warns that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050 unless we turn the tide.  This is a disturbing scenario for a fish-eating country like the Philippines where fishing is also a major source of livelihood.  What policy measures will your administration take to stop the “plasticization” of the oceans?  For instance, will you support a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags?   Will you support a ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetic and personal care products?

6.  The increasing volume of waste electrical and electronic equipment, popularly known as e-waste, is a growing problem in the Philippines and other low and middle income countries given the toxicity of this waste stream and the lack of a system to ensure their environmentally sound management.  How will your administration deal with the need to reduce the health and environmental impacts of e-waste?

7.  The EcoWaste Coalition has detected toxic cadmium in campaign tarpaulins at levels that exceed the European Union’s limit for cadmium in plastics.  Used cadmium-laden tarps are often sent to dumpsites and landfills for disposal.  What do you plan to do to ensure that the ubiquitous plastic tarpaulins do not contribute to cadmium pollution that is detrimental to human health and the ecosystems?

8.  During the last several years, the mass media reported about chemical-related explosions, fires, emissions and spills from industrial facilities affecting workers and surrounding communities. Would you support a mandatory system that will require industrial and other facilities to provide accessible environmental data to the general public.  Will you support the adoption of a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) policy in line with the public's right to know?  Will you encourage and support industry switch to clean production practices?

9.  The Philippines signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury in October 2013, but has yet to ratify this important global treaty that aims to prevent and reduce mercury pollution from human activities. To date, 25 countries, including Japan and USA, have ratified it.  50 ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force.  If elected as President, will you commit to promoting the ratification of the Minamata Convention in your first 100 days in office?


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