01 October 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Appeals in Earnest for PH Ratification of Mercury Treaty


The waste and pollution watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition has appealed to the national government to fast track the country’s ratification of a global treaty that aims to protect public health and the environment from the deleterious effects of mercury poisoning.

“We strongly believe that our country is ready, willing and able to ratify and implement the provisions of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which the government signed six years ago on October 10, 2013,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“As a matter of fact, our country has already achieved a number of policy and regulatory milestones to control, if not eliminate, mercury pollution from human activities,” he said.

“We therefore request the Duterte government to ratify the treaty and to secure the necessary concurrence by the Senate,” he said.

Dizon cited the phase-out of mercury-based medical devices such as thermometers in 2010, the ban on mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining in 2012, the adoption of extended producer responsibility for mercury lamps in 2013, and the prohibition on over 135 mercury-contaminated skin whitening products from 2010 to 2018.

Most recently, in July 2019, the government launched the “National Action Plan for the Phase-Out of Mercury-Added Products (MAPs) and the Management of the Associated Mercury-Containing Wastes” in anticipation of the global phase-out target by 2020 for specified MAPs.

“The ratification of the pact will strengthen our country’s resolute efforts to combat mercury pollution as this will allow us to fully engage in treaty processes as Party to the Convention.  Also, it will allow us to gain more access to financial resources, technology transfer, and capacity-building opportunities,” Dizon pointed out.

According to the “Ratification Dossier” published by the Environmental Management Bureau, “the existing policies, programs, and regulations have, to some degree, prepared the Philippines in terms of fulfilling the requirements of the Convention.”

It noted that “despite the economic cost to comply with the provisions of the Convention, the long-term benefits of becoming a Party far outweigh the disadvantages.”

The dossier cited that “the Convention is consistent with the country’s basic policy to protect and preserve the right to health of Filipinos, and the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology.”

“With the aid of the Convention, the ever-increasing threat of mercury pollution to public health and environment could be minimized or eliminated,” the dossier said.

To recall, the mercury treaty is named after the city of Minamata in Japan, which suffered decades-long incidence of mercury poisoning due to the discharge of industrial wastewater into the sea by a chemical factory.

The treaty, which entered into force on August 16, 2017, has been ratified by 113 countries to date.

Among other things, the mercury treaty provides for a ban on new mercury mines and the phase-out of existing ones, the phase-out and phase-down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

The third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, or COP3, will take place in Geneva, Switzerland from November 25 to 29 this year. 

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Reference:
http://www.mercuryconvention.org/

29 September 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes for Concerted Action to Ensure Consumer Protection against Unsafe Goods ahead of the Christmas Shopping Spree

As shoppers start to make a beeline for popular Christmas goodies such as children’s toys, a public interest advocacy group called on both the government and the industry to ensure that consumers are protected against hazardous goods this festive season.

In observance of the Consumer Welfare Month (CWM) this October, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized the bigger responsibility of the government and the industry in guaranteeing that consumers are protected against abuses and imbalances in the marketplace. 

The theme for this year’s CWM, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), is “Consumer Protection: A Shared Responsibility.”  

“While protecting the consumer interest is indeed a shared responsibility, we believe that the government and the industry have the greater obligation of upholding the legally guaranteed rights of the Filipino consumer considering the powers and resources these two other pillars of consumer protection have,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

According to the “Handbook on ASEAN Consumer Protection Laws and Regulations,” consumer protection pertains “to the measures that aim to protect and promote the well-being and/or financial interests of consumers.”

“Consumer protection measures, including consumer education, mobilization and representation, work to ensure that consumers can make well-informed decisions about their choices and that producers and sellers will fulfill their promises about the products and services they offer,” it further said.

“As the consumer right to safety is one of the frequently ignored rights during the holiday season, we urge the government and the industry to take extra steps to protect consumers against products that are hazardous to health, life or property,” he said.

“As we press concerned agencies and businesses to act, we likewise urge consumers to be on the lookout for shoddy and unsafe goods and to avoid impulsive and reckless purchase that can put their own well-being and safety, and those of the people they care for, at risk,” Dizon said.

As consumers, we have the responsibility, among other things, to be more vigilant and inquisitive about the products and services we select and pay for, as well as our responsibility to be mindful of the environmental impacts of our consumption choices and what we throw away during this joyful season, the group said.

Dizon specifically cautioned consumers against the careless purchase of popular holiday products like children’s toys, gift items, and yuletide decorations that may pose hazards to health, life or property.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, toys not compliant with safety standards may contain substances of concern like cadmium, lead and mercury, brominated flame retardants and phthalates, which can pose chemical hazards, especially to young children.

Some gift items, which are often sold unlabeled, may not be safe for children, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups due to their chemical and physical properties, while decorations like substandard Christmas lights may result in electric shock and may even trigger fires, the group said.

CWM is observed every October according to Proclamation No. 1098 issued in 1997 by then President Fidel Ramos “to set aside a period during which concerted efforts for the assertion of consumer rights may be thoroughly discussed, planned and carried out.”

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Reference:

https://asean.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Handbook-on-ASEAN-Consumer-Protection-Laws-and-Regulation.pdf

http://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1997/09/26/proclamation-no-1098-s-1997/

25 September 2019

Typhoon Ondoy’s 10th Anniversary: Groups Urge All LGUs to Re-Commit to Building Disaster-Resilient and Healthy Communities

Buklod Tao – EcoWaste Coalition
Joint Press Release

As the 10th anniversary of the devastating tropical storm Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) is observed tomorrow, September 26, environmental health groups urged all cities and municipalities to re-commit to building disaster-resilient and healthy communities as the impacts of deteriorating global climate continue to unfold.

“As we recall the wrath of Ondoy, we urge all city and municipal governments to assess their compliance to the provisions of two vital post-Ondoy laws - Republic Acts 9729 and 10121 - in order to foster climate adaptation and disaster resilience, especially in our poor and vulnerable communities,” said Noli Abinales, founder of Buklod Tao and former president of the EcoWaste Coalition.

RA 9729, or the Climate Change Act of 2009, directs local government units, among other things, to put together and regularly update their Local Climate Change Action Plans (LCCAPs) to reflect changing social, economic, and environmental conditions and emerging issues.

While RA 10121, or the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, requires Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plans (LDRRMPs) to be drawn up, reviewed and tested, among other provisions.

“The effective implementation of holistic people-driven LCCAPs and LDRRMPs is essential if we are to strengthen the disaster preparedness and emergency response capacities of families and communities, particularly those living in hazard-prone and high-risk localities,” Abinales said.  

“Let the tragic memories of Ondoy and other extreme weather disturbances remind us of the need to faithfully carry out the provisions of RA 9729 and RA 10121,” he added.

Recalling the massive garbage crisis in the aftermath of Ondoy, Abinales also emphasized the need to fully enforce RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, to alleviate the impact of natural disasters.

“The proactive enforcement of RA 9003 will prevent garbage from blocking waterways and aggravating the flooding due to heavy rainfall,” he said.  

According to the groups, the ecological management of discards before, during and after any calamity must form part of effective LDRRMPs. 

Preventing the generation of garbage and ensuring that discards are properly sorted, recycled, reused or composted will help families and communities in minimizing the adverse impacts of any disaster to health, environment and the economy.

The groups noted that mismanaged wastes exacerbate hygiene and sanitation problems in disaster-affected communities and cause the spread of preventable diseases.

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Reference:
https://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2009/ra_9729_2009.html
https://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2010/ra_10121_2010.html
https://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2001/ra_9003_2001.html

22 September 2019

Zero Waste Group Seeks a Stop to Open Defecation as Polio Re-Emerges in PH

A waste and pollution watchdog group urged national and local authorities to intensify the government’s Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) program as polio, one of the most feared childhood diseases, makes unwelcomed comeback in the country.

The EcoWaste Coalition pointed to the need to achieve ZOD after the Department of Health (DOH) recently confirmed two polio cases involving a three-year old girl from Lanao del Sur and a five-year old boy from Laguna.

Described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease,” polio or poliomyelitis is caused by the poliovirus, which is transmitted through the human feces, especially in places with poor hygiene and sanitation.

“The unwelcomed return of polio in the Philippines, after almost two decades of being declared polio-free by WHO, should lead to an intensified implementation of the ZOD program and other preventive measures, including ecological solid waste management, toward improved environmental sanitation in our communities,” said Jovito Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Attaining the ZOD target will benefit sectors such as young children, pregnant women and those with impaired immune systems who are most vulnerable to polio and other infectious diseases,” he pointed out.

“We can prevent polio from spreading through effective immunization and by ensuring people’s access to such basic necessities like water, sanitation and hygiene,” he added.
  
To achieve the ZOD target, every household in a barangay should have access to a sanitary toilet and water supply, the DOH said.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO, some seven million Filipinos still practice open defecation, particularly in rural areas.

The DOH’s "Guidebook for a ZOD Program" defines open defecation as “the practice of passing feces outside a latrine or toilet, or in a natural environment (open field, body of water, etc.) and leaving the fecal matter exposed.”

To stop open defecation,  the EcoWaste Coalition also urged Congress to ensure the allocation of sufficient funds for the construction of sanitary toilet facilities and the provision of hygiene and sanitation education, noting that only P2 million is allotted for building toilets in the proposed DOH budget of P160.15 billion for 2020.

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Reference:

https://www.doh.gov.ph/sites/default/files/publications/Zero_Open_Defecation_Program.pdf
https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/poliomyelitis
https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1081000

21 September 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes for Mercury Content and Hazard Labeling of Fluorescent Lamps



To uphold the consumer’s right to know, a toxics watchdog group is asking the lighting industry to provide mercury content information on fluorescent lamps and their packaging. 

In anticipation of the global phase-out in 2020 of specific mercury-added products, including certain types of fluorescent lamps, the EcoWaste Coalition pressed for essential labeling information to assist consumers in picking fluorescent bulbs with the lowest mercury content.

“Specifying the mercury content on the lamp and its packaging will help consumers in selecting the bulb with the least amount of mercury, and avoiding those scheduled for phase-out  by 2020 as per the Minamata Convention on Mercury,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

“Without the mercury content information, it would be difficult for consumers, as well as for government regulators, to identify fluorescent lamps that should no longer be sold in the market starting next year,” he pointed out.

The said mercury treaty, which the Philippines has signed but not yet ratified, provides for the phase-out by 2020 of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) equal to or less than 30 watts with mercury content above 5 mg mercury per lamp, as well as linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs) such as triband phosphor less than 60 watts with mercury content exceeding 5 mg per lamp and halophosphate phosphor equal to or less than 40 watts with mercury content greater than 10 mg per lamp.

The phase-out also covers high pressure mercury vapor lamps (HPMV) for general lighting purposes, and a variety of cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) and external electrode fluorescent lamps (EEFLs) for electronic displays.

The EcoWaste Coalition also urged the lighting industry to provide for mercury hazard warning as specified in Philippine National Standards (PNS) IEC 60968:2012 for self-ballasted lamps.

Among other things, the said PNS requires the following labeling information:  “WARNING: Contains Mercury, Handle with Care and Dispose Properly.”

“The inclusion of such basic cautionary statement will promote the safe handling of fluorescent lamps to avoid breakage and to reduce the risk of mercury exposure from broken lamps through inhalation of the mercury vapor or dermal contact with the mercury-laden phosphor powder.  Proper disposal will help in limiting the amount of mercury entering disposal sites and polluting communities,” Dizon said.

According to the “Guidebook on the Management of Mercury-Containing Lamp Wastes” published by the government, “mercury and its compounds are highly toxic, especially to the developing nervous system, which is very sensitive to all forms of mercury.”

“Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause permanent brain damage, central nervous system disorders, memory loss, heart disease, kidney failure, liver damage, vision loss, sensation loss, and tremors,” it said.

It warned that “even at low-level exposure to mercury has caused serious health effects, including neurological damage, reproductive system damage, behavioral problems and learning disabilities.”

“Mercury is also a suspected endocrine disruptor, which means it can damage the reproductive and hormonal development and growth of fetuses and infants,” the guidebook said

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Reference:

http://www.mercuryconvention.org/Portals/11/documents/Booklets/COP1%20version/Minamata-Convention-booklet-eng-full.pdf 

“Guidebook on the Management of Mercury-Containing Lamp Wastes,” DOE/DENR