02 December 2019

Green Groups Vow Support for QC’s Ban on Single-Use Plastic and Paper Disposables

In response to the plea made by Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, various ecology groups signified their support for groundbreaking citywide policies aimed at reducing the volume of single-use plastics and other residual wastes.   

At a press conference held yesterday, Belmonte announced the promulgation of Ordinance No.2876, which bans the distribution and use of single-use plastics and disposable containers in hotels and restaurants in the city effective February 1, 2020, as well as Ordinance No. 2868, which bans the distribution of plastic bags by retailers effective January 1, 2020.  Ordinance 2868 will also ban the distribution of brown bags in various establishments one year after it has taken effect.

“Introduced by Councilor Dorothy Delarmente, these Ordinances are concrete steps taken by the City Government to prevent plastic bags and single-use plastics from entering the waste stream and thus lessening the possibility of these plastics from ever reaching bodies of water, she said, stressing “it takes a concerted effort from all stakeholders to prevent this problem from escalating.”

“I encourage all stakeholders to support the newly-enacted ordinances,” Belmonte said.  “We hope that you will continue to partner with the City Government to advance our advocacies on climate change, sustainability and environmental protection,” she told members of the EcoWaste Coalition, which co-organized the press conference.     

Belmonte’s clarion call drew immediate support from the EcoWaste Coalition and other green groups.

“The promulgation of these twin pollution prevention ordinances against plastic and paper disposables is as a step in the right direction,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of theEcoWaste Coalition, who commended Belmonte, Delarmente and the City Council for giving priority consideration to these progressive environmental policies.

“This action from the ground should encourage the speedy approval of a robust national legislation phasing out single-use plastics and other disposables to advance the consumption and production agenda in the country,” she pointed out.  

Sonia Mendoza, Chairman of the Mother Earth Foundation, also lauded the passage of the ordinances stressing that “other local government units should take their cue from Quezon City and enact similar measures that will address the proliferation of throw-away packaging such as single-use plastics, which constitute a main obstacle in community efforts to reach the Zero Waste goal.”

"These waste prevention measures targeting the consumption and disposal of single-use plastics and other throw-away materials will surely contribute to reducing the city's massive production of garbage. We expect the business community and the citizenry to rally behind the effective enforcement of these measures, as well as the promotion of sustainable practices toward a greener city," said Dr. Angelina Galang, President of the Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy.

Under Ordinance No. 2876, single-use and disposable materials such as plastic spoons, forks and knives; plastic/paper cups, plates, straws, stirrers; and Styrofoam will not be allowed for dine-in customers in hotels and restaurants.

Hotels are likewise prohibited from distributing items used for hygienic purposes like soaps, shampoos, conditioners and shower gels in sachets and single-use containers.

Under phase one of Ordinance No. 2868, “a total ban on the distribution of plastic bags will be implemented by all shopping malls, supermarkets, department stores, grocery stores, fast food chains, food stalls, restaurants, drug stores, pharmacies and other similar retailers.”

For phase two of Ordinance No. 2868,“ total ban on the distribution of brown bags” by retailers will be imposed “one year after the effectivity of this Ordinance.”

Violators of the said Ordinances will be fined PHP1,000 for the first offense;  PHP3,000 for the second offense, plus revocation of Environmental Clearance and issuance of a Cease and Desist Order; and 3)  PHP5,000, plus revocation of Business Permit and issuance of a Closure Order.


29 November 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Urges SEA Games Spectators to Keep Venues Waste-Free (Let's go for gold in terms of reduced garbage and pollution throughout the games, says green group)

As the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) is officially inaugurated tomorrow at the Philippine Arena, a waste and pollution watchdog group reminded spectators to keep the venues of the multi-sport regional event waste-free.

The EcoWaste Coalition appealed for public cooperation to ensure that the sports venues and their vicinities will not be sullied by litter and filth that is often a common problem in big gatherings.  

“As host country for the biennial sporting event, let us show our esteemed guests and our own people that we care for our environment,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Not leaving any trash at the sports venues is a simple act that we can do to make the SEAG an eco-friendly experience for competitors and spectators alike,” he said.        

“We urge everyone to be mindful of the ecological waste management system that should be in place in all the sports venues in Clark, Subic, Metro Manila and other places.  Please put your discards in the segregated waste bins,” he said.  

To reduce the generation of garbage in the sports venues, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the public to heed the following 10-point waste prevention tips.

Tip 1:  Don't bring in food and beverage to the venue if not permitted.

Tip 2:  If allowed, bring food and drinks in reusable containers to cut on single-use plastic and paper trash.

Tip 3:  Put candy wrappers in your pockets and keep them with you until you see a bin. 

Tip 4:  Dispose of spent chewing gum properly; do not throw it on the floor or stick it in under the seat.

Tip 5:  Refrain from tossing dirty tissues and wipes onto the ground.

Tip 6:  Don't leave any trash on or under the bleachers; put discards in the bins provided.

Tip 7:  Observe the “no smoking, no vaping, no spitting” rule.

Tip 8:  Avoid using plastic cheering paraphernalia.

Tip 9:  Don't throw confetti on the athletes.

Tip 10:   Never release balloons or sky lanterns to celebrate, which will only end up as litter on land or in the ocean.

“If a venue lacks a good system for managing waste, we request the public to consider bringing their discards home for proper recycling or disposal,” Benosa suggested.

"Let's cheer for all the SEAG athletes and go for gold in terms of spotless venues and reduced garbage and pollution throughout the games," the EcoWaste Coalition said.


25 November 2019

Local Government Units Take Action to Protect Their Constituents from Mercury in Skin Whitening Cosmetics

The Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog group, gave local government units (LGUs) a pat on the back for taking action to stop the illegal sale of skin whitening cosmetics laden with mercury, a toxic substance that is not permitted as an ingredient in cosmetics under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.

The group cited the concerted action by some LGUs to address this public health and environmental issue as the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP3) is set to take place from November 25 to 29, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The group particularly cited the Quezon City Government for promulgating Ordinance No. 2767 in 2018, which prohibits business and commercial establishments, as well as street, “tiangge” and online vendors, from manufacturing, distributing and selling cosmetics with mercury content above one part per million (ppm) limit.

The group also lauded the Baguio City Government and the Manila City Government through their respective City Councils for considering measures similar to what the Quezon City Government adopted to combat the unlawful trade in mercury-added skin whitening products in their areas of jurisdiction.

The proposed ordinance banning and penalizing the trade in skin whitening cosmetics containing mercury above 1 ppm in Baguio City was filed by Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan, while counterpart ordinance was introduced by District II Councilor Numero Lim in Manila City.  Preliminary hearings were already conducted by the Baguio City Council Committee on Market, Trade, Commerce and Agriculture chaired by Councilor Philian Weygan Allan, and by the Manila City Council Committee on Health chaired by Councilor Louisito Chua.  

“We support the expedited approval of the pending ordinances in Baguio and Manila to send a clear message to unscrupulous traders of mercury-tainted skin whitening cosmetics that their days are numbered and that they can no longer evade responsibility for their illicit act,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We urge other LGUs where the illegal sale of mercury-laced skin whitening products goes unchecked to follow the good example set by Quezon City to protect public health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury pollution,” he added.   

The EcoWaste Coalition further commended other LGUs, particularly the Angeles City Government, for cracking down on sellers who continue to defy the ban on mercury-contaminated skin whitening cosmetics that is being enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“National and local actions are essential to realize the global phase-out target by 2020 of cosmetics, including skin whitening products, with mercury above 1 ppm as per the Minamata Convention on Mercury,” Dizon said.

“As 2020 is just around the corner, we expect COP3 and all governments to actively pursue measures toward the effective phase-out of targeted mercury-added products (MAPs) under the mercury treaty,” he said, noting that the Philippines has already drawn up its national action plan for the phase-out of MAPs and the management of their associated wastes despite the country's delay in ratifying the treaty.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO),” the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”

Repeated applications of such products “may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration, and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections,” the WHO warned.




24 November 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Slams Latest Attempts to Import Toxic Waste from South Korea

The environmental health watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition deplored the entry into the country of some 53,000 metric tons of radioactive phosphogypsum from  South Korea as intercepted by government agents.

The group also scored the importation of electronic waste, or e-waste, from South Korea in one 40-foot container that was falsely declared as used television and electrical spare parts

At the same time, the group commended the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for their swift action, which led to the seizure of the phosphogypsum shipments on November 22 at a wharf in Cabangan, Zambales and the subsequent arrest of the ship master, his crew and the crane operators.  .

The group further lauded the Environmental Protection and Compliance Division of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for stopping the e-waste consignment, which arrived on November 6 at the Manila International Container Port.

“We deplore this most recent act to transfer into the country tons upon tons of phosphogypsum, a waste by-product of fertilizer production from phosphate rock, which is known to contain radioactive elements,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We also find the e-waste shipment equally detestable,” he added.

“We have yet to complete the re-exportation to South Korea of contaminated plastic waste stranded in Misamis Oriental and it seems that a new controversy involving these recent toxic shipments is looming,” he lamented.

“The decisive action taken by the PCG, NBI and BOC operatives amid intensified efforts to prevent hazardous waste exports to the Philippines must be supported.  We hope they will hold their ground and get the toxic shipments out of the country as soon as possible,” he said.

These incidents should prompt the government into imposing a definite ban on the importation of hazardous waste and other wastes, and into ratifying without delay the Basel Ban Amendment  prohibiting the export of hazardous wastes, including e-waste, from developed to developing countries for all reasons, including recycling.  The said amendment to the Basel Convention will enter into force on December 5, 2019.

Dizon had earlier written to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) last November 12 to alert the agencies about the phosphogypsum shipments which the group learned about through an e-mail it got from an informant.

“As the country’s principal regulatory and law enforcement bodies in charge of controlling and preventing hazardous waste trade, we request both the EMB and the BOC to jointly investigate this matter,” he said.

As per news report published at the PCG website, combined PCG-NBI operatives intercepted the Liberian-flagged merchant ship from the Port of Gwangyang at the Cabangan Wharf in the municipality of Cabangan, province of Zambales.

The ship crew members and crane operators were already unloading the cargoes at the wharf when the law enforcers arrived.

Unable to present the proper permits, the PCG-NBI operatives ordered the ship master to stop unloading the cargo  citing violations of Republic Act 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act, and Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

The ship master, crew, and crane operators were subsequently arrested and brought to NBI Headquarters in Manila for proper custody and further investigation.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): “Phosphogypsum, a waste product from manufacturing fertilizer, emits radon, a radioactive gas.”

“It also contains the radioactive elements uranium, thorium and radium,” the EPA said, noting that “because the wastes are concentrated, phosphogypsum is more radioactive than the original phosphate rock.”





Groups Push for Children’s Safety from Hazardous Toys as Christmas nears

Consumer and environmental protection groups today reminded the public to be watchful for hazardous toys in the market that can bring harm rather than joy to children.

At a press briefing held today, the EcoWaste Coalition and the Laban Konsyumer, Inc. rallied consumers to exercise their rights to product information and product safety amid the toy shopping spree as the traditional Christmas gift-giving nears.

“We appeal to all gift givers to be extra careful when buying toys as the market is flooded with dangerous toys that are often unlabeled and unregistered,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“While toys are generally fun and safe to play with, there are toys out there that can pose various hazards from chemical poisoning, choking, skin laceration, strangulation and even injury to sensitive body parts like the eyes and ears,” he said.

“As children are vulnerable to the negative effects of poorly made and toxic toys, toy makers, distributors and retailers must be responsible enough not to offer toys that have not passed quality and safety verification, including compliance to product labeling requirements,” he emphasized.

For his part, Atty. Vic Dimagiba, President of the Laban Konsyumer, Inc. pointed to the need for heightened monitoring of toys to rid the market of products that can put the health and safety of children at risk.

“As shoppers flock to their favorite stores, the government needs to assure consumers that toys being sold in the market are not only affordable, but also properly labeled and of good quality,” he said.

“Sustained monitoring of the marketplace is needed to stop the sale of toys and other popular Christmas products that may inflict harm to children’s health,” he added.

Clinical toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center further stressed the consumer vigilance against toys that are laden with hazardous substances such as endocrine disrupting chemicals, heavy metals, and persistent organic pollutants.

“Consumers should avoid toys containing hazardous chemicals.  Lead in painted toys, in particular, may be ingested by children through normal hand-to-mouth behavior.  Chronic exposure to lead can interfere with a child’s growth and development resulting in lower intelligence quotient (IQ), poor school performance, reduced attention span, and anti-social behavioral,” she explained.

According to the latest toy sampling conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition involving 156 products bought from toy retailers in Baguio, Manila, Cebu and Davao Cities:

a.  20 out of 156 toys had lead levels above the regulatory limit of 90 parts per million; traces of other heavy metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium were also detected in some toys;

b.  85 of the 156 toys contain small parts that can pose a choking hazard; some toys were also found to pose eye injury, laceration, and strangulation hazards;

c.  None of the 156 provided complete product labeling information as required by Republic 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations.

To reduce children’s exposure to harm arising from the purchase and use of dangerous toys, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the following “Santa’s shopping tips” for safe toys:

1. Choose age-suitable toys.  Check the recommended age on the product label and select the one that is appropriate to your child’s age, abilities, habits, and maturity level.  Refrain from buying toys that are not labeled for age appropriateness.

2. Pick toys that are durable and well-made.  A sturdily made toy will last longer and will be safe for parts that could break or fall apart with frequent use. Detached or shattered parts could injure or pose a choking hazard to a curious child.

3.  Shun toys with small parts to reduce the risk of choking.  Marbles, tiny balls and toys with button batteries and small components pose a choking risk.  As a general rule, toys and toy parts should be bigger than a child’s mouth.

4.  Avoid toys with a cord longer than 12 inches to prevent strangulation incidents.  Toys with a cord or string longer than 12 inches can be deadly as it can wrap around the neck and asphyxiate a child.

5.  Go for injury-free toys.  Refrain from procuring toys that can injure a child’s ears, eyes, skin and body such as toys with pointed parts, sharp edges and those that can eject small objects such as toy pellet guns.

6.  Reject lead painted toys.  Refuse coated toys if there is no assurance that the paint used is safe from lead, a neurotoxin.  Toys should be painted only with lead safe paints to prevent a child from being exposed to this toxic chemical that can cause intellectual impairment and mental retardation, among other adverse effects.

7.  Avoid toys made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. PVC plastic toys contain chemicals additives such as toxic phthalates that can leach out when a toy is chewed or sucked.

8.  Patronize duly labeled and registered toy and childcare articles (TCCAs).  Notified TCCAs have undergone quality and safety assessment by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).