EcoWaste Coalition Welcomes Moves to Curb Online Sale of Hazardous Chemicals


16 April 2021, Quezon City.  The EcoWaste Coalition has given its thumbs up to the efforts of various stakeholders to collectively tackle the concerns arising from the online trade of regulated hazardous substances.
At the virtual interagency meeting held this morning, environmental, health and trade regulators, e-commerce executives and chemical safety advocates discussed the unfitting use of online shopping platforms to sell regulated chemicals such as cyanide and mercury.
In his opening remarks, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuna who presided over the meeting said: "while e-commerce is a significant driver of our economy and provides convenience to millions of consumers, there are also certain degree of risk to the population in general," citing the online selling of regulated chemicals or chemical products as an example.  "With these products being highly accessible to anybody who has access to online trading sites, risk of human exposure or environmental contamination is highly possible, especially when sellers or suppliers do not have permits from government regulatory agencies."   
He was followed by a presentation from the EcoWaste Coalition illustrating how third-party dealers are taking advantage of digital commerce to sell regulated chemicals in blatant disregard of existing regulatory controls. 
The group reported finding online product ads for substances belonging to the Philippine Priority Chemicals List or those covered by multilateral chemical agreements such as the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
It also called attention to banned products being sold online such as mercury-added skin whitening cosmetics, mercury-based medical devices, cyanide-laden silver cleaning agents, lead-containing spray paints, and highly hazardous pesticides.
“Regulated chemicals sold by unlicensed or unregistered persons are too easily accessible on the Internet,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. “Chemicals purchased from these unauthorized sources may be diverted to inappropriate or illegal activities,” he warned, adding that “chemicals purchased by unauthorized users without proper knowledge and training may result in adverse health and environmental outcomes, including chemical exposure and spill.”
Engr. Edwin Rommel Navaluna, Chief of Chemical Management Section of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), then briefed the participants about the regulations governing chemicals under Republic Act 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act.

In a bid to curb the online trade of regulated chemicals, the EcoWaste Coalition put forward the following action recommendations:
  1. For the government to designate e-commerce Inspectors to promote and ensure compliance to chemical controls regulations;
  2. For online shopping platforms to appoint Monitors who will ensure that non-compliant product ads are immediately taken down and their dealers blacklisted and reported to the concerned regulatory agencies; and
  3. For e-commerce sites to agree on a Code of Conduct that will protect online marketplaces from the unauthorized and unlawful trade of hazardous substances, mixtures and products.
In response, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Assistant Secretary Mary Jean Pacheco who is the department's e-commerce lead person expressed the interest of her office to facilitate the suggested adoption of a Code of Conduct, noting the Memorandum of Understanding recently signed by online shopping platforms Lazada and Shopee to address the sale of counterfeit or pirated goods.
Analyn Ignacio of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told the meeting  they have informed online shopping platforms about the availability of the FDA Verification Portal System, which provides a comprehensive list of FDA-licensed establishments and registered products that can assist in promoting consumer access to safe and quality commodities. 
The meeting ended on a high note with the approval of Usec. Cuna's motion to create a technical working group to discuss in detail the stakeholders' recommendations.