29 September 2016

Thank You Miriam

Thank You Miriam.

The EcoWaste Coalition joins the Filipino people in honoring Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago who passed away today at the age of 71.  We consider Miriam a friend and our indefatigable champion at the Senate on waste and toxic issues.  In keeping with the pledge she made in 2010 to include hazardous chemicals in her legislative agenda, Miriam filed at least 75 bills and resolutions in the 15th and 16th Congress that tackled chemicals, products and wastes, which threaten maternal, child and environmental health, including a bill banning single-use plastic bags, a bill restricting cadmium, lead, mercury and hexavalent chromium in packaging and   a bill establishing a Pollutant Release and Transfer Registry.  Among our lawmakers, Miriam distinguished herself as the Senator with the sharpest eye for waste and toxic issues.  In fact, during the last six years, she pushed for legislative inquiries and measures on a litany of health and environmental topics raised by the EcoWaste Coalition – from Bisphenol A in children’s products, mercury in skin whitening cosmetics, lead in paints and products such as toys,  health hazard posed by loombands and toxic adhesive used in artificial nails.  More recently, Miriam advocated for the return of the illegal garbage shipments from Canada.  In response to the election survey questionnaire that we sent to all the 2016 presidential candidates, where she emerged as the “greenest,” Miriam declared that:  “We must not process the waste in the Philippines, as it sets a dangerous precedent. If we allow one country to turn the Philippines into a garbage dump, we are telling all other countries that they can do the same.”  She added: “If elected, I will invoke the Basel Convention to force Canada to take back the trash it dumped on Philippine soil.”  Had she won the presidency, Miriam would have promoted the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury in her first 100 days in office.  Had she won last May, she would have immediately rescinded the guidelines adopted by the National Solid Waste Management Commission allowing thermal waste-to-energy facilities in violation of the Clean Air Act’s ban on incineration. Miriam thrice failed in her bid to become the President of the Republic of the Philippines, but in our heart of hearts Miriam was our legislative champion in building a toxic-free nation that we, the people, continue to fight for.

27 September 2016

Groups Urge President Duterte to Wage War on Waste and Pollution

Green groups today urged President Rodrigo Duterte to wage a "War on Waste" and lay down an ecological and just waste and pollution prevention and reduction regime that protects public health and the environment a matter of national priority.

At a press conference in Quezon City, the groups exhorted the government to fast track the promulgation of policies, regulations and plans that it vowed to do to safeguard human health and the environment from the onslaught of wastes and pollutants.

The groups, composed of BAN Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace and Health Care Without Harm, represent the waste cluster of the Green Thumb Coalition (GTC), a broad alliance of Philippine environmental NGOs. Last April 2016, along with other "presidentiables" then-Mayor Duterte ranked as the third most progressive presidential candidate based on GTC's environmental survey questionnaire.

The groups recalled that last April 18, in response to GTC's pre-election questions, then presidential aspirant Mr Duterte wrote: "these (survey  responses) will be translated into a program of action with specific activities implemented and/or initiatives started in the first six months of the Duterte administration."

September 27 marks President Duterte's 90th day in office. However, halfway into his first six months, the groups observed that addressing waste issues do not seem to figure as among the administration's top priorities. Among the issues cited were: solid waste and plastics pollution, thermal waste-to-energy facilities, pollution prevention, electronic waste and the Canada waste issue.

"Having laws that outline the country's waste pollution problems are not enough if serious implementation is lacking. Rather than curing the problem with stop-gap measures, we urge the Government of the Philippines to address pollution through prevention measures at source, such as a pollution disclosure policy required of industries. Public access to information on industrial emissions not only identify problems at source, but also address the people's right to know.  Similarly, looking into requiring closed-loop production of electronics would minimize negative effects on the informal waste sector by requiring manufacturers who profit the most to also take responsibility for the e-wastes generated," said Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Detox Campaigner.

“We hope that this government will take plastic pollution, particularly its leakage into our waterways and marine environment, more seriously, and hold manufacturers and producers into account.  The proliferation and increase of single-use, disposable plastic products and packaging and its problematic disposal increase the burden of already-taxed local governments to deal with these problematic products on their own, as well as pave the way for the highly-toxic burning of plastic residuals in cement kilns and drive the irresponsible call to lift the incineration ban.  We call on the President to include a national ban on single-use plastic bags among his top legislative priorities,” stated Froilan Grate, Asia-Pacific Coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

"We hope the President promptly lends support to the "war" Secretary Lopez is waging against enemies of the environment, especially against those who seek to sneak enacting policies such as the ‘Waste-to-Energy’ Guidelines that are deleterious to the environment as well as people's health, and also in clear violation of the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act," said Ayeth Enrile, Medical Waste Campaigner, Health Care Without Harm.

"Before elections, President Duterte was vehemently against Canada's dumping. He now needs to show he is a person of decisive action when it comes to waste," said Anna Kapunan, Campaigner for BAN Toxics. "The President should ensure that all the trash is immediately re-exported, that Canada accepts it, and Filipino taxes are not spent for its return. Also, the President should do as he promised and ensure the Basel Amendment ratification is a priority agenda of the Senate, in order to prevent any future dumping."

“During the last three months, waste concerns have taken a back seat to ‘bigger’ environmental issues and many of the campaign promises related to the enhanced enforcement of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, have yet to be realized.  We hope to see real solutions to our garbage woes sans incineration gaining more traction in the coming days and that Secretary Lopez will make good on her promise to go after non-compliant local government units,” noted Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The groups enjoined President Duterte and Secretary Lopez to jointly wage the “War on Waste” and for the entire society to support it.


26 September 2016

Environmental and Labor Activists Write to PM Trudeau to Push for the Re-Export of Illegal Canadian Trash

Environmental and labor rights advocates today wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ambassador Neil Reeder to appeal yet again for the return of the controversy-ridden illegal garbage shipments to its origin.

The letter was sent via e-mail to the Office of the Prime Minister in Ottawa City and the Embassy of Canada in Makati City and signed by officials of Ang Nars Party-List, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa and private individuals Raphael Lopez and Elaine Lucero.

The above public interest groups and private individuals were “complainants-in-intervention” to Criminal Case No. 14-311191 versus Canadian garbage importers Adelfa Eduardo and Sherjun Saldon for violation of R.A. 6969 or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous Nuclear Wastes Control Act.

The complainants wrote to Canada following a court order issued by the Manila Regional Trial Court (Branch 1) instructing the return to Canada of 50 container vans of residual and hazardous trash that were illegally shipped to the Philippines in the guise of “plastic scraps,”

They asked the Canadian government to support the court order issued by Judge Tita Bughao Alisuag, which an inter-agency committee, meeting last September 5 agreed to pursue as reported by the Bureau of Customs.  The Department of Justice, a member of the committee, will file a motion for the execution of the court order in the case hearing slated for September 30.

“We appeal to Prime Minister Trudeau to respect the court order and extend full cooperation to the Duterte administration to ensure the immediate re-export of their garbage back to Canada,” said Dr.
Leah Paquiz, former Ang Nars Party-List Representative to the 16th Congress.

The complainants urged the Canadian government to publicly withdraw the purported “local solution” announced by Ambassador Reeder in May 2015, wherein “the (Canadian) garbage (will be) treated locally.”   

“This ‘local solution’ is utterly distasteful and illegal as ruled by the court and will only deepen the unhealed wounds of environmental injustice,” said Rene Pineda of the EcoWaste Coalition.

In lieu of the so-called “local solution,” they urged Prime Minister Trudeau to fulfill the “Canadian solution” he alluded to in November 2015 on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in response to a question raised by journalist Tina Monzon Palma regarding the garbage dumping scandal.

“The ‘Canadian solution,’ now more than ever, must categorically include the re-importation of the illegal garbage shipments for environmentally-sound disposal in Canada,” they said.

As stated by Judge Alisuag, “our country should not be made a trash bin by (an)other country,” which “will violate equally important environmental laws such as R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and R.A. 9275 or the Clean Water Act.”

As the aforementioned case is limited to only 50 of the 103 container vans of Canadian rubbish that illegally entered our ports, the complainants asked Trudeau to voluntarily ensure the repatriation of all the illegal garbage shipments.

“To avoid further embarrassment that would come with another legal decision, we suggest that Canada should just take back all its garbage, including those not covered by the said case,” they said.

The complainants also urged Canada to pay the Philippines for all the costs incurred in dealing with your garbage, and to fix the legal loopholes that allowed the unlawful export of Canadian trash to the Philippines, including ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment.

"We want to put this garbage dumping behind us, so our countries can turn over a new leaf in our bilateral relations.  Your government can bring this controversy to a close by doing what is just: take back your garbage and send no more trash overseas,” they told Prime Minister Trudeau and Ambassador Reeder.


24 September 2016

Environmental Scientist Points Out PH Lack of Capability to Test for Dioxins from Waste Incinerators


Amid noise triggered by a controversial government’s decision to allow “waste-to-energy” (WtE) technologies to burn garbage, a distinguished environmental scientist drew attention to the country’s lack of local capability to test and monitor dioxin releases from incinerators.

Speaking at a forum in Quezon City last Tuesday on the health and environmental impacts of thermal WtE technologies, Dr. Jorge Emmanuel pointed out that “the Philippines is not in a position to continuously, not even routinely, monitor dioxins,” which are some of the most toxic chemicals known to science.

A Balik Scientist from US and who is now an adjunct professor at Silliman University, Emmanuel said national government agencies (NGAs) such as the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Health and Science and Technology do not have laboratories that can analyze for dioxins, requiring samples to be sent abroad to undergo the very expensive tests.

“Pollution control devices to scrub and filter out dioxins from the exhaust gases are very expensive and very costly to operate.  To cut down on costs, some vendors may under-design or underutilize or even eliminate pollution control devices.  Thus, it is essential to test for dioxins to independently validate the claims of vendors or manufacturers,” he emphasized.  “But tests are expensive and difficult to do accurately.”

If the NGAs are incapable of independently validating technology vendor claims and monitoring dioxin emissions, the same is true with local government units (LGUs), many of whom do not even have approved 10-year solid waste management plans and materials recovery facilities as required under the law, he noted.  

Dioxins, which are byproducts of waste combustion, are toxic at extremely small concentrations, concentrate up the food chain, stay at the environment for a long time and can travel long distances from the source of emission.

Dioxins are toxic at very low levels and are known to cause cancers, specifically chronic lymphocytic leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, as well as cancers of the lungs, larynx and trachea. 

Dioxins also cause birth defects, alter the reproductive systems of fetuses, impact the IQ of children, suppress the immune system, decrease fertility, cause ovarian dysfunction, and reduce the sizes of male genitalia.

“They are highly persistent in the environment, so any dioxins produced today will remain for up to 150 years if on top of the soil, more than 500 years if in bodies of water, and up to 1000 years if the dioxins are covered by a few centimeters of soil surface,” Emmanuel said.

The current Philippine limit is 0.1 ng I-TEQ/Nm3 which remains the international standard, but a few years ago the US EPA lowered its dioxin limits even further to 0.0099 to 0.027 ng TEQ/m3.  “The dioxin limits continue to be revised as new data come out,” he said.

“This suggests that in coming years, the internationally acceptable dioxin limit will go down further as new data compel us to promulgate more stringent limits to protect public health from a pollutant that will remain in our environment for hundreds of years,” he concluded.

Last June 9, 2016, the National Solid Waste Management Commission decided to adopt Resolution 669, which provides for the “Guidelines Governing the Establishment and Operation of WtE Technologies for Municipal Solid Wastes.”

Environmental health and zero waste groups have asked DENR Secretary Gina Lopez to revoke the controversial policy, which they insist is in violation of the ban against the incineration of municipal, biomedical and hazardous wastes under RA 8749 or the Clean Air Act.

In addition, the newly-formed Stop WtE Alliance also stressed that waste incineration runs counter to the spirit and intent of the country’s other pollution prevention and climate protection laws such as RA 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act), RA 9729 (Climate Change Act) and RA 10121 ( Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act) as WtE adds to the carbon and other hazardous emissions in the atmosphere.


Notes re units of measurement:

ng TEQ/Nm3 = nanograms of dioxin toxic equivalent per Nm3 
Nm3 = normal meter cubed per hour
ngTEQ/m3 = nanograms of dioxin toxic equivalent per m3

m3 = cubic meter

23 September 2016

“Teflon Chemical” (PFOA) Warrants Global Action (UN Expert Committee also recommends global action on 3 other hazardous chemicals)


(Rome, Italy) A UN expert committee has determined that PFOA, commonly known as the “Teflon chemical,” warrants global action under the Stockholm Convention, an international treaty that bans the world’s most hazardous chemical pollutants.

In a consensus decision, the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) agreed that PFOA “is presumed to be an immune hazard to humans” and linked to, “high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.” 

Experts concluded that PFOA does not degrade in the environment, is transported over long distances, and biomagnifies in animals, threatening the food chain. As a result, the expert group, noting a recent study concluded that, “a ‘safe’ concentration in the environment cannot be established.”

“PFOA is clearly a threat to human health and the environment, especially for communities across the world living in the PFOA-contaminated red zones,” said Dr. Mariann Lloyd-Smith, Advisor to IPEN and National Toxics Network. “The fluorochemical industry and their allies in governments can no longer hide behind a wall of secrecy and deceit. It’s time for accountability, cleanup, and compensation.”

PFOA now moves to the next year-long stage of evaluation by the Committee which includes investigation of alternatives and risk management options along with a formal recommendation to the Committee about listing PFOA in the treaty.

Other key decisions made by the POPRC at its twelfth meeting held from 19 to 23 September in Rome include:

Recommendation for a global ban on a toxic flame retardant is upheld, but many loopholes weaken the proposal

Last year, the POPRC agreed to recommend the global elimination of DecaBDE, a toxic flame retardant chemical widely used in electrical equipment and present in e-waste. However, this year the Committee bowed to pressure from the European and Canadian auto industries and included a large number of poorly-defined exemptions in order to continue its production and use. In addition, the UK proposed sweeping exemptions for military vehicles and aircraft, but withdrew their proposal after IPEN revealed they had colluded with industry lobbyists and submitted industry comments as their own.

“The European and Canadian auto industry associations demanded a long list of exemptions simply because they did not want to pay the cost of testing to validate the spare parts,” said Joe DiGangi, Senior Policy and Technical Advisor, IPEN. “This is an abuse of the Convention, especially when alternatives are widely available. We need a true global ban of this substance that completely stops production and use, deals with the millions of tons of e-waste dumped in developing countries, and closes all loopholes that would pollute our consumer products.”

Recommendation for a global ban of short-chained chlorinated paraffins

After years of delay, the POPRC finally recommended a global ban of short-chained chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs). No other POPs chemical has been produced in quantities as large as SCCPs. SCCPs are endocrine disruptors widely used in metal cutting, and are present in alarmingly high levels in many children’s products made of PVC, such as toys, children’s costumes, and stickers. SCCPs are suspected to cause cancer in humans and are found in the animals that serve as essential traditional foods for Arctic Indigenous Peoples. Technically feasible, cost-effective, alternatives are available for all known uses including many viable non-chemical alternatives.

“SCCPs are out of the public eye, but contaminate the bodies of people around the world,” said Pam Miller, IPEN Co-Chair and Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “Now it is time to eliminate this dangerous chemical without exemptions.”

Dicofol warrants global action

Dicofol is a pesticide that uses DDT in its production and is found in milk, baby formula, eggs, fruits, vegetables, human breast milk, and blood. Dicofol is very toxic to aquatic animals and causes reproductive damage in birds. It is an endocrine disruptor and suspected human carcinogen. The POPRC agreed that, “Dicofol as a result of its long-range environmental transport is likely to lead to significant adverse environmental effects and may lead to significant adverse human health effects, such that global action is warranted.”

“We are now one step closer to a global ban of this antiquated organochlorine, first cousin to, and contaminated with, DDT,” said Dr. Meriel Watts, Pesticide Action Network (PAN). “An important next step is to identify alternatives to Dicofol, particularly non chemical alternatives that can be used safely in sustainable agriculture.”

Failure to recommend treaty action on hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD)

Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD) is unintentionally formed and released from industrial processes including incineration and the production of certain chlorinated chemicals and magnesium. In 2015, China blocked addition of HCBD to the part of the treaty dealing with unintentional production, citing the need for more information. The Committee gathered information justifying action under the Convention but failed to recommend action under Convention, consistent with the push in 2015 by China.

“The current decision gives the governments the impression that the Committee no longer thinks unintentional emissions of HCBD are important – even though all their reports indicate these represent almost all emissions of HCBD,” said Joe DiGangi, IPEN. “At the upcoming Conference of the Parties, governments should proceed to add HCBD to the treaty for action on unintentional releases.”

Industry influence

Finally, this year’s meeting was characterized by industry influence on the positions and decisions of members and government representatives. “Although there were positive results from the meeting, broad-ranging requests for exemptions by industry were carried and defended by government representatives even while recently peer-reviewed scientific papers and public data were excluded to the detriment of scientific accuracy and disclosure,” stated Pamela Miller, IPEN Co-Chair. “It is troubling to witness the complicity of public government agency representatives whose primary mission is to protect human health and the environment, and it raises ethical concerns about the undue influence of industry in the POPRC process.”

The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) is a subsidiary body to the Stockholm Convention established for reviewing chemicals proposed for listing under the Treaty. The POPRC conducts a review process for proposed chemicals and makes a decision on whether the chemical is likely, as a result of its long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and/or environmental effects such that global action is warranted. If global action is warranted, the POPRC conducts an in-depth review of the chemical. Following this review, the POPRC then makes recommendations to the Conference of the Parties for the listing new chemicals. Members of the POPRC are government-designated experts in chemical assessment or management.

22 September 2016

DENR Sec. Lopez Urged Not to Open Floodgates for Technologies that Burn Discards

Photo by Manny Palmero, Manila Standard
Groups opposed to “waste-to-energy” (WtE) technologies that incinerate discards urged Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez to revoke a controversial policy that will undermine efforts to prevent and reduce waste and pollution.

Resolution 669, which the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) adopted on June 9, 2016 before Lopez took over the DENR, provides for the “Guidelines Governing the Establishment and Operation of WtE Technologies for Municipal Solid Wastes.”  

As DENR Secretary, Lopez serves as concurrent chairperson of the NSWMC, which is tasked to oversee the implementation of solid waste management plans and prescribe policies to achieve the objectives of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“We admire Sec. Lopez’s passion to protect Mother Earth, but embracing WtE technologies that incinerate discards is not the way to go as this is contrary to her vision for a ‘cleaner, healthier and happier’ Philippines,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We request her to revoke NSWMC Resolution 669 and instead pursue pro-people Zero Waste solutions to clean up and restore the environment, while creating life-sustaining recycling jobs and enterprises,” she said.

Through a petition e-mailed to the Office of the DENR Secretary on September 22, over 60 groups and individuals expressed dismay over the adoption of the said resolution “as this could open the floodgates for WtE plants that burn waste materials, undermining community efforts toward a Zero Waste and toxic-free society.”

A related petition signed by groups belonging to the Green Convergence for Safe Food, Health Environment and Sustainable Economy and the Green Thumb Coalition was also submitted to Lopez last September 1.

The latest petition was signed on September 20 following a forum on the environmental and health impacts of thermal WtE technologies with resource person Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, an adjunct professor at Silliman University and a Balik Scientist of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

“Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act of 1999 prohibits the incineration of municipal, biomedical and hazardous wastes, which process emits toxic and poisonous fumes, while Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 requires the adoption of best environmental practices in ecological waste management excluding incineration,” the petition stated.

“Gasification, plasma arc, pyrolysis, cement kiln co-processing and other burn WtE technologies go against the  incineration ban under RA 8749 and run counter  to the ecological solid waste management  promoted by  RA 9003,” it pointed out.

According to the petition, “burn WtE technologies tolerate the generation of more wastes and their disposal to ensure nonstop supply of feedstocks to make facility operations profitable,” adding that, “the use of mixed wastes as feedstocks discourages  resource conservation, segregation at source, reusing, recycling and composting.” 

“Burn WtE facilities convert mixed discards into  toxic ash requiring special disposal as hazardous waste as such ash is contaminated with dioxins and other persistent organic pollutants, mercury, lead and other toxic metals and other harmful substances,” it said.

The petition emphasized that “burn WtE plants discharge extremely toxic pollutants to the air, water and soil, particularly dioxins that are formed by burning chlorine-based chemical compounds with hydrocarbons, that the government has no capability to monitor on a continuous basis.”

“Investments in waste prevention and reduction, source separation, extended producer responsibility, informal recycling sector and other initiatives will lead to a progressive reduction on the volume and toxicity of waste sent for disposal,” it  further said.


20 September 2016

Environmental Experts Shoot Down "Waste-to-Energy" Incineration

Environmental experts have strongly argued against the adoption of “waste-to-energy” (WtE) technologies that burn municipal solid waste as this will drive up the generation of trash and undermine environmentally sound approaches to managing discards while producing highly toxic pollutants that can harm public health.

At a well-attended forum organized by the Stop WtE Alliance, environmental scientist Dr. Jorge Emmanuel and environmental law specialist Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos joined forces with zero waste and climate justice activists in turning down burn WtE technologies as solutions to the country’s swelling garbage that is projected to reach 40,087 tons per day this year.

“By their very nature, incinerators are technologies that need a constant supply of waste feedstocks.   Moreover, investing in WtE plants commit local government units (LGUs) to these costly technologies for the long term that will require them to make more waste for incinerators to operate profitably,” said Emmanuel who was chief technical advisor of the United Nations Development Program on global healthcare waste projects in 17 countries.

“There is no such thing as ‘clean incineration’ as all incinerators release toxic particulates, toxic gases such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, toxic metals such as lead and mercury and other pollutants in addition to dioxins, including 2,3,7,8-tetrachloro-dibenzo-p-dioxin, the most toxic compound known in science,” he said.

Emmanuel noted that the Philippines does not have the technical in-country capability to carry out regular testing of dioxins from incinerators and to conduct frequent independent spot checks of facilities in order to enforce the current dioxin limit , much less a more stringent dioxin limit to protect public health in the future.

“The use of pollution control devices such as filters and electrostatic precipitators merely move the pollutants from one environmental medium (the air) into another (solid filters or wastewater). The toxic pollutants do not disappear; they are concentrated into other media that have to be treated as hazardous waste,” he pointed out.

Ash from incinerators is toxic, heavily contaminated with dioxins and leachable metals, and under the Guidelines on Best Available Techniques/Best Environmental Practices of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants,  ash requires special land disposal as hazardous waste, Emmanuel further said, adding that “these added costs are often not included in economic analyses but they should be.”

For her part, Ramos stated that “no LGU in the country seems to have crafted as yet an air quality action plan as directed by RA 8749 or the Clean Air Act. Only a handful has an approved ten-year solid waste management plan, and it is appalling that some LGUs  are now even contemplating on hosting WtE facilities.  Can LGUs handle the complex WtE process and the tons of hazardous ash to be disposed of a result, when they cannot even comply with what RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act requires?”

Ramos likewise scored the “Guidelines Governing the Establishment and Operation of WtE Technologies for Municipal Solid Wastes” adopted by the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) last June 9 prior to the assumption to office DENR Secretary Gina Lopez on July 1.

“What the NSWMC did was beyond its authority and contrary to R.A. 9003 as WtE encourages the mixing of wastes and undermines the required ecological practices of waste prevention and reduction, segregation at sources and resource recovery for reusing, recycling and composting clearly mandated by said law,” she added.

Speaking on behalf of the Stop WtE Alliance, Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said: “We urge our lawmakers, our national government agencies particularly the DENR and NSWMC and our LGUs not to be lured by quick WtE fixes that could further inflate waste volume and  disposal costs, while releasing dioxins, mercury and other toxic pollutants that can damage the public health and the environment.”

“We are playing with fire if we allow WtE facilities to thrive.  What is needed is an honest-to-goodness implementation or RA 9003 nationwide and a change in our old-fashioned mindset to bury or burn our discards,” she added. 


1.  Additional Information about dioxins from Dr. Jorge Emmanuel:

a.  Dioxins are toxic at very low levels and are known to cause cancers (specifically chronic lymphocytic leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, as well as cancers of the lungs, larynx and trachea).  They also cause birth defects, alter the reproductive systems of fetuses, impact the IQ of children, suppress the immune system, decrease fertility, cause ovarian dysfunction, and reduce the sizes of male genitalia. They are highly persistent in the environment, so any dioxins produced today will remain for up to 150 years if on top of the soil, more than 500 years if in bodies of water, and up to 1000 years if the dioxins are covered by a few centimeters of soil surface.

b.  The dioxin limits continue to be revised as new data come out. The current Philippine limit is 0.1 ng I-TEQ/Nm3which remains the international standard, but a few years ago the US EPA lowered its dioxin limits even further to 0.0099 to 0.027 ng TEQ/m3.  This suggests that in coming years, the internationally acceptable dioxin limit will go down further as new data compel us to promulgate more stringent limits to protect public health from a pollutant that will remain in our environment for hundreds of years.

2.   Dr. Jorge Emmanuel was a consultant to the World Health Organization, World Bank, Swiss Red Cross, USAID, US National Institutes of Health, and other organizations, providing assistance to about 40 countries on incineration, non-incineration technologies, and waste management.  He holds degrees and certificates in chemistry from North Carolina State University, environmental management from the University of California-Berkeley, public health from the University of Iowa, renewable energy technologies from Stanford University, and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan.

3.  Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos was faculty member of the University of Cebu College of Law teaching Environmental Law, among other subjects.  She co-founded the Philippine Earth Justice Center, which is based in Cebu.  At present, she is Vice-President for the Philippines of Oceana, an international organization that is working to protect and restore the oceans.

Toxics Watch Group Urges Cebu City Police Not to Smash Video Karera TVs

A policeman smashes illegal gambling machines in Cebu City. (Photo by Juan Carlo de Vela, Manila Bulletin)

An environmental watch group on toxic chemicals in products and wastes cautioned the Cebu City police authorities against smashing confiscated video karera TVs and other electronic gambling devices.

The safety warning from the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition followed the destruction yesterday, September 19, of at least 102 video karera TVs and “moli-moli” slot machines using axes and sledgehammers at the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) with top regional and city police officials in attendance.

While lauding the local police for their campaign against illegal gambling activities, the group expressed concern over the unsafe manner of manually destroying the gaming machines, notably the TV sets, which contain large quantities of hazardous substances.

“We understand that the confiscated TV sets are destroyed for good to prevent their reuse for illegal gambling activities, but this should not be in a manner that will scatter the lead and their other hazardous substances, which can endanger human health and the environment,” stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Old analog TV units that are often used in illegal gambling business contain huge amounts of hazardous substances such as lead, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, copper and mercury, and flame retardant chemicals.

Cadmium, lead and mercury belong to “top 10 chemicals of major public health concern,” according to the World Health Organization.

Citing information from the report “Poison PCs and Toxic TVs,” each computer or television display contains an average of 4 to 8 pounds of lead (with the) monitor glass contain(ing) about 20% lead by weight.”

“When these components are illegally disposed and crushed in landfills, the lead is released into the environment, posing a hazardous legacy for current and future generations…  These heavy metals and other hazardous substances found in electronics can contaminate groundwater and pose other environmental and public health risks,” the report said

Instead of breaking the illegal gambling devices with axes and sledgehammers, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the police authorities to send the seized items to registered hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facilities for proper dismantling and recycling in controlled conditions.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau has accredited several TSD facilities in the province of Cebu.

The EcoWaste Coalition warned that the burning, dumping and unsafe recycling of electronic waste can pose serious health risks to workers, residents and others due to the release of highly toxic pollutants, including dioxins and flame retardant chemicals that can disperse over long distances and remain in the environment for a long time.


18 September 2016

Civil Society Groups Step Up Information Drive vs. "Waste-to-Energy" Incineration

 Dr. Jorge Emmanuel
Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos

Environmental, health and labor groups belonging to the Stop Waste-to-Energy (WtE)
Alliance will hold on Tuesday, September 20, a forum that will shed light on burn WtE technologies touted as solutions to the country’s garbage and energy problems.

The Stop WtE Alliance counts among its partners the Ang Nars Party List, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Cavite Green Coalition, Concerned Citizens Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability,
EcoWaste Coalition, Freedom from Debt Coalition-Cebu, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Mother Earth Foundation, Philippine Earth Justice Center, Partnership for Clean Air, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation, Sanlakas, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa, Zero Waste Philippines, Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines Foundation  and other advocates for sustainable development.

Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, an environmental scientist, and Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, an environmental law expert, will serve as key resource persons in the forum that is expected to draw 100 participants from the academe, government, healthcare sector, industry and the civil society.

“This forum is part of our renewed effort to enlighten concerned sectors about burn WTE technologies as false solutions to our country’s garbage problem and energy needs, and dissuade Congress, national government agencies and local government units from falling into the costly quick-fix trap,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Ramos will explain why the ongoing push for burn WtE technologies goes against the spirit and intent of the incineration ban under Section 20 of the Clean Air Act, which prohibits the burning of municipal, bio-medical and hazardous wastes.

Ramos taught at the University of Cebu College of Law (UC) teaching Environmental Law, among others, and co-established the Cebu-based Philippine Earth Justice Center.  Ramos is currently the Vice-President for the Philippines of Oceana, an
international organization that is working to protect and restore the oceans on a global scale. 

Emmanuel will clarify the myths about burn WtE technologies and present the facts, including emissions associated with the incineration of waste.
  Emmanuel was Chief Technical Advisor on health care waste for the United Nations Development Program.  He was a member of the expert group that developed the Guidelines for Best Available Techniques and Best Environmental Practices under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

He received his academic training in chemistry at North Carolina State University, environmental engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, environmental management specializing in hazardous waste at the University of California at Berkeley, public health at the University of Iowa, infection control and prevention with the Association of Professionals in Infection Control, and renewable energy technologies at Stanford University.



15 September 2016

PH Groups Back Global Movement to “Break Free from Plastic”

#breakfreefromplastic goes live, gains ground

Environmental groups from the Philippines have thrown their warm support behind a newly-launched movement that seeks to stem the tide of plastic pollution across the globe.

The EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm - Asia, Mother Earth Foundation and Oceana Philippines expressed support for the Break Free from Plastic (#breakfreefromplastic) movement coinciding with its launch today, September 15.

The above groups participated in the multi-country process, including a global meeting held in Tagaytay City last July, which led to the formation of the movement.

“We believe in a world where the land, sky, oceans, and water are home to an abundance of life, not an abundance of plastic, and where the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat is free of toxic by‐products of plastic pollution,” the movement’s vision statement says. 

According to Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, “the birth of this movement mirrors the increasing global concern against worsening plastic pollution and the urgency to stem the tide to prevent our Mother Earth from further drowning in plastics.”

“We contribute to this global movement by pushing for prohibitions on single-use plastic bags, plastic microbeads in personal care and cosmetic products and on toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead, hexavalent chromium and mercury in packaging, and by promoting socially just and eco-friendly waste solutions sans dumping and burning,” she added.

Environmental activist Von Hernandez of Greenpeace pointed out: "Our continued dependence on single-use plastics and disposables is bringing us to the brink of a global crisis that now threatens the health of our oceans and our collective well-being. It is time we end this destructive cycle and break free from the scourge of plastics pollution."

“The high volume of plastic trash is being used by incinerator proponents to justify burn disposal technologies such as ‘waste-to-energy.’  We can fight off incinerators by depriving them of plastics and other feedstock to burn and pursuing ecological solutions,” stated Anne Larracas of GAIA Asia-Pacific.

Towards a future that is free of plastic pollution, the Break Free from Plastic movement will pursue the following shared principles:

1. Our lifestyles and economy fit within the environment limits of the planet.

2. Waste is reduced, first and foremost.

3. The life cycle of the materials and products we use – from extraction and production, to end use, recycling, composting, and disposal –sustain the health of the people and the planet.

4. Strong community action and partnerships among citizens, workers, government, sector experts, and supportive business leaders guide decisions about present and future material design, manufacturing, and waste management.

5. Waste pickers and recycling workers are supported to improve the systems they operate in and can co-lead a just transition to a new and safe materials economy.

6. Producers take responsibility for the full life cycle costs and impacts of their products and packaging, and are redesigning and innovating better materials and systems.

7. Where plastic products and packages are necessary, they are re-used, repaired, or, failing that, recycled; and toxic substances are eliminated from their production.

8. No new incinerators are constructed, and renewable energy incentives are eliminated for plastics and waste burning. This includes gasification, pyrolysis, cement kilns, and other burn “waste-to-energy” facilities.

9. Organic waste returns to the soils and zero waste systems reduce reliance on landfills and incinerators.

10. The systems we build and materials we use slow climate change, rather than accelerate it.

Interested groups and individuals who share its vision and principles may join the movement by signing up at  http://breakfreefromplastic.org/


12 September 2016

EcoWaste Coalition Pitches for Legal Limits on Hazardous Substances in Jewelry

Fashion and religious jewelry with high concentrations of cadmium and lead.
Fashion and religious jewelry without detectable cadmium and lead.

A watch group on toxic chemicals in products and wastes today urged the government, the jewelry industry and the civil society to craft a regulation that will restrict the content of hazardous substances in jewelry products.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the pitch for such a regulation after detecting high concentrations of cadmium and lead in cheap earrings,  bracelets, necklaces, rings and rosaries bought from retailers in Divisoria, Quiapo and Sta. Cruz, Manila.

“Consumers are literally buying poison ornaments to adorn their bodies or express their faith without them knowing it because of the absence of legal restrictions on hazardous substances in jewelry and the lack of mandatory labeling information,” noted Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“As toxic jewelry products can pose risk to human health and the environment, we request the authorities to prepare the required regulation that will set legal limits on cadmium, lead and other chemicals of concern in jewelry with inputs from the industry and the civil society,” he said.

The group conducted its latest product screening following the market withdrawal of some jewelry items in France, Germany, Latvia and Sweden that contain levels of cadmium, lead, mercury or nickel in violation of national and European Union regulations as reported in RAPEX, or the EU rapid alert system for dangerous non-food consumer products.

EU regulations restrict cadmium and lead in jewelry at 0.01% and  0.05% by weight, respectively, or 100 parts per million (ppm) for cadmium and 500 ppm for lead. According to EU, “lead is harmful to human health and hazardous to the environment,” while “cadmium causes damage to organs and may cause cancer.”

Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence device, the EcoWaste Coalition found 23 of the 45 jewelry samples laden with extremely high amounts of cadmium and lead that would make them illegal to make, import or sell in the EU.

Among the most toxic pieces found were a crucifix pendant with 339,600 ppm lead, a rosary with a component that has 273,600 ppm lead, a pair of red earrings with 248,500 ppm lead, several metallic rings with over 100,000 ppm lead, a necklace with a medicine capsule-like adornment that has more than 100,000 ppm lead, a necklace with 54,600 ppm cadmium and yellow smiley ring with 48,600 ppm cadmium.

‘While most of the toxic articles we found are cheap adult jewelry, it is possible for these items to get into children’s hands or mouths, especially if they break and a child swallow a broken piece with high levels of cadmium or lead,” Dizon said.

According to a fact sheet on “Dangerous Metals in Jewelry” published by the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI), “the greatest risk with cadmium and lead is if children ingest it orally, for example by sucking the jewelry or managing to swallow it. There is also a risk that cadmium and lead can detach itself from the jewelry and end up on the hands and then enter the mouth via food.”

“There have been cases of children in US getting poisoned through the ingestion of lead-containing jewelry,” Dizon pointed out.

As reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “in 2003, a 4-year-old child swallowed a piece of jewelry. The child became ill because the jewelry was made of lead.”  This prompted the recall of 150 million pieces of toy jewelry sold in vending machines in US.

The CDC also stated that “in 2006, a child died from acute lead poisoning after eating a heart-shaped metallic charm containing lead. The charm had been attached to a metal bracelet provided as a free gift with the purchase of shoes manufactured by Reebok International Ltd.” This tragedy led to the recall of 300,000 heart-shaped charm bracelets.





09 September 2016

Complainants Laud Manila Court Order to Send Garbage Back to Canada (Judge Tita Bughao Alisuag Says: PH Not a ‘Trash Bin’)

Complainants-in-intervention against parties who imported garbage from Canada lauded a court order to send the illegal shipments back to its origin.

Ang Nars Party-List, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) and the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), together  with the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and three individuals, are intervenors to Criminal Case No. 14-311191 versus importer Adelfa Eduardo and customs broker Sherjun Saldon for violation of RA 6969 or the Toxic Substances, Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act.

“The intervenors are grateful to the court for upholding their legal position that disposing of the imported wastes locally violates our laws and for invoking provisions of RA 6969 to order the transport of these wastes back to Canada,” said lawyer Armand Mejia, counsel of the EcoWaste Coalition and the other complainants. 

As stated by Judge Tita Bughao Alisuag of the Regional Trial Court of Manila (Branch 1), “the Court sides with the intervenors that the disposal and destruction of the wastes will violate equally important environmental laws such as RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and RA 9275 or the Clean Water Act.”

In denying the motion of the prosecution for the local disposal of the imported trash from Canada, the lady judge pointed out that our country is not a “trash bin,” emphasizing “this should not be made a precedent for other countries to follow.”      

“We intervened in the motion filed by the state prosecutors, representing the inter-agency committee composed of the Bureau of Customs, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Foreign Affairs, for the immediate disposition of the botched garbage shipments. Our motion in legal intervention was filed purposely to stop the wastes from being disposed of in local facilities. We invoked the civil liability of the importers to ship back the imported waste to Canada pursuant to RA 6969 and other environmental laws,” explained former Rep. Leah Paquiz of the Ang Nars Party List, which has been fighting the Canadian dumping issue since 2013.  “We thank the court for affirming our sovereign right to protect our country from dumping.”

Judge Alisuag had ordered that the 50 container vans containing  mixed Canadian garbage, including used adult diapers,  be returned to its origin and that the importer shall be under obligation to send them back pursuant to RA 6969.

“This is a victory for our people and for the environment.  But the fight is not yet over.   Now we need to ensure that the decision is faithfully carried out.  That every last piece of garbage from the 103 shipping containers sent to our country is taken back to Canada, including those that were already landfilled,” said Josua Mata, Secretary-General of SENTRO.

For her part, Annie Geron , General Secretary of PSLINK, said: “This is a concrete outcome of the people’s collective efforts in defense of ourselves and the environment.  We should remain vigilant and maintain our unities to ensure full compliance to the court order and hold to account the importers and the Canadian government.  Ibalik ang kahuli-hulihang hibla ng basura.” 

SENTRO, PSLINK and other labor groups had previously said that returning the garbage shipment to Canada for treatment in appropriate facilities with functional pollution control measures will protect Filipino workers at local ports and waste disposal plants against occupational exposure to biological, chemical and physical hazards from the reeking trash.

It will be recalled that 103 container vans of largely residual household garbage mis-declared as scrap plastics for recycling were illegally exported to the Philippines from Canada from 2013-2014. 

Last year, garbage from 26 of these containers was illegally disposed of at Metro Clark Sanitary Landfill in Tarlac, enraging provincial officials and their constituents and buttressing the demand against foreign waste disposal in local facilities.


08 September 2016

GREEN ADVOCATES REMIND PRESIDENT DUTERTE OF ENVIRONMENTAL TO-DO LIST (Widest Network of Environmental Advocates urge Duterte advocates to deliver on green commitments)

In a press conference held in Quezon City, environmental advocates united once more to remind President Rodrigo Duterte the list of environmental reforms he promised to initiate in the first 100 days of his presidency.

The Green Thumb Coalition, the widest coalition of more than 40 national and local organizations advocating for a progressive environmental agenda, had previously held dialogues with then-presidentiable Rodrigo Duterte, where he clarified positions on several environment, governance and development issues.

“President Duterte has, in our engagements, professed his willingness to work with the environmental sector and the rest of civil society in responding to pressing green, climate and development issues,” said Norie Garcia of the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Inc. “While we welcome a lot of developments which has already took place under his administration, a lot can still be done and initiated in the last 30 days of the first hundred days of his presidency.”
Garcia noted that Duterte’s progressive pronouncements range from themes of mining, biodiversity, renewable energy, climate justice, sustainable agriculture, national land use, people-centered sustainable development, waste and even human rights: the nine themes carried by the coalition during its campaign.

Significant strides in mining lauded; climate justice, energy, human rights and other environmental concerns stressed

Jaybee Garganera of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) welcomed the mining audit led by Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), which has already resulted in the closing of 10 mines in various areas affected by destructive large-scale mining.

“With Secretary Gina Lopez at the helm of the DENR, significant strides have surely been made in the issue of mining,” Garganera further stated. “However, a new framework of minerals management must be legislated to ensure long-lasting and sustainable progress in the extractive industry,” he added.

Garganera noted that the immediate passage of the AMMB can be realized if President Duterte certifies it as an urgent bill in Congress. Only stricter policies and regulations on the extractive industries will be safeguarded against the massive and continuing poverty and environmental-destruction created by large-scale mining.

The creation of an “Environment Task Force” made up of various departments in the Duterte Cabinet was also welcomed, albeit with considerations. Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) Convenor stressed the importance of incorporating energy in tackling issues of environment, and the apparent absence of the Department of Energy (DOE) in the task force.

“The ongoing energy review under President Duterte’s administration must consider the environmental and social cost of dirty energy, and yet so far, the DOE has continually argued for the continued reliance on coal for the country’s power mix,” said Arances. “We must collectively recognize that allowing new coal mining and coal fired-power plants in the country will tie the Filipino people into a technology which is already being phased out internationally,” he added.

Arances cited the recent Oxford study saying that increasingly, coal-based technologies are deteriorating into liabilities rather than assets because of the risks they pose to the environment and the economy, and given that renewable energy is being pursued by more and more countries. He called on the President-elect to lead in the transition towards increasing the share of renewable energy in the power mix, which according to studies has decreased over the span of 8 years, even with laws like the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 in place.

“We welcome the affirmation of the presumptive President regarding the recent resolution from the Climate Change Commission to put under review new and existing coal plants, we call on his administration to implement a moratorium on the approval of new coal projects while the review process is being implemented,” said Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) National Coordinator Ian Rivera. “This is in line with his agenda and commitment to stream-in renewable energy,” he added.

“While this is a positive step as the Philippines is among the most vulnerable countries with regards to climate change and climate-induced disasters, we implore the President to join us in demanding reparations from industrialized countries for the disasters we continually face in the context of climate change,” said Rivera, pointing out how the President Duterte has repeatedly recognized the larger role of rich, industrialized countries in contributing to climate change.

Thony Dizon of the Ecowaste Coalition lauded the move by the Duterte administration to begin re-exporting illegal Canadian garbage shipped to the Philippines. “We welcome this development and want to ensure that all 103 containers of Canadian garbage will be re-exported, not just the 50 shipping containers specified by the Manila Regional Trial Court,” Dizon said.

Meanwhile, Dizon cautioned the Government into fast-tracking Waste-to-Energy incineration projects which goes against the incineration ban as contained in the Clean Air Act and Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. “The present ‘Guidelines Governing the Establishment and Operation of Wate-to-Energy Technologies for Municipal Solid Waste’ could open the floodgates for costly and polluting incinerators to burn wastes, which could be reused, recycled and composted instead of being burned,” said Dizon.

Developments ‘useless’ without human rights, groups say

Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa raised the issue of people-centered development and human rights in the press conference.

“While we recognize that there are many positive steps initiated by the Duterte administration, we cannot ignore the issue of human rights which has been a prevalent theme during the President’s first one hundred days,” Pedrosa said. 

“Environmental rights are primarily, human rights. Positive environmental developments are useless if civil liberties and collective human rights are neglected. The Philippines currently ranks second in the list of countries with the highest number of killings of environmentalists,” he added.

Pedrosa noted that issues regarding charter change, federalism and other significant changes must be approached with significant consideration of the widespread poverty and the people’s need for sustainable and people-centered policies. “At present, President Digong’s plan for development still resembles his predecessor’s development plan,” Pedrosa said.

Pedrosa encouraged the Head of State to review and revise his development plan to ensure that human rights, dignity and well-being will not suffer in favour of profit and a business-as-usual track of development. The Duterte Government is at present in the process of revisiting the country’s Medium Term Philippine Development Plan.

In addition to these action points derived from Duterte’s favourable responses to issues of the environment, stricter policies on waste, land use and biodiversity has also been supported by the Duterte administration, as well as commitments on agriculture, fisheries and agrarian reform in favour of marginalized sectors in society.