30 October 2008

Public Urged to Cut Use of Bottled Water as Undas Exodus Starts

Quezon City. An environmental coalition working on waste, climate and chemical safety issues urges the public to cut down on bottled water as Filipinos from all walks of life troop to the cemeteries to remember the dead.

“We expect a surge in the purchase and disposal of water and beverage in plastic bottles as millions pay respect to their departed ones over the weekend. Unknown to many, the uncontrolled consumption of bottled water is polluting and warming the planet,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

The rise in demand for bottled drinks, observed the EcoWaste Coalition, means increased production and transportation of plastic bottles. These processes consume lots of energy from polluting, non-renewable sources, and add to the country’s waste disposal problems.

The EcoWaste Coalition made its plea for reduced consumption of bottled water following the launch last Saturday of its annual campaign for a clean and toxics-free observance of the widely popular All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on November 1 and 2.

Citing information from the Food and Water Watch, a non-profit consumer group based in Washington DC, the EcoWaste Coalition explained that the manufacture of polyethylene or PET bottles for bottled water eats up loads of energy and contributes to global warming.

In the United States, for instance, the yearly production of PET bottles to meet the upward demand for bottled water takes the equivalent of about 17.6 million barrels of oil, excluding the oil required to transport the bottled water to consumers.

A study by the Earth Policy Institute also shows that the bottled water industry in the United Kingdom generates about 30,000 tons per annum of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas.

“Bottled water also hurts the environment with the unchecked disposal of empty bottles in dumpsites, along sidewalks or in waterways. Burning plastic bottles discharges harmful and carcinogenic chemicals too,” the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

The group urges Filipino consumers to reduce their waste size and carbon footprint by refraining from buying bottled water unless absolutely necessary.

As an ecological alternative to bottled water, the EcoWaste Coalition advises consumers to fill reusable containers with clean tap water or with filtered or boiled water when traveling.

Considering the threat of harmful chemicals such as bisphenol-A (a known endocrine disruptor) leaching from polycarbonate plastic bottles, the Coalition recommends that consumers switch to reusable stainless steel or glass containers.

As a long-term solution, the EcoWaste Coalition urges the government, the industry and the entire citizenry to protect water as a public resource, ensuring that water sources are protected from dumping, mining and other environmentally-damaging activities.

“Ensuring public access to clean, safe and affordable water supplies will surely benefit public health, the climate and the environment, and influence consumer preference for tap water over bottled water,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376

25 October 2008

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes for Eco-Friendly Undas

Manila, Philippines– “Let us observe a simple and waste-free Undas,” thus appealed the EcoWaste Coalition, the green beauty queens of Miss Earth Philippines and Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr. of the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to the general public who are expected to troop to the cemeteries to observe All Saints' and All Souls' Day.

According to the group, the occasion is a special holiday as millions of Filipinos visit the tombs of their departed family members and friends, bringing flowers and candles and offering prayers. Sadly, the celebration is often marred by wasteful practices and unabashed littering desecrating the cemeteries that are supposed to be hallowed grounds.

Miss Earth Philippines green beauty queens and activists from EcoWaste Coalition hold a simple event in front of the Manila South Cemetery to remind the public to keep the cemeteries clean. The event was attended by Henry Dy, Officer in Charge of the Manila South Cemetery and Manila City Hall Police P/SSupt Alex Gutierrez.

“Let us observe the cleanliness of our cemeteries, as our way of respecting the memories of the dead. Cemeteries are sacred places and we should keep them peaceful and litter-free. Let us show the Filipino nature of caring for others and our environment,” said Cathy Untalan, former Miss Earth-Water International and currently the Executive Director of Miss Earth Foundation.

More than 8,000 tons of garbage are being produced daily in Metro Manila alone. Sacred places such as cemeteries, churches and chapels, could turn into virtual dumpsites if such wasteful throw away practices persist.

Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr., chair of the Public Affairs Committee of Catholic Bishops of the Philippines (CBCP), has conveyed his support for this timely advocacy for health and the environment.

"I join the EcoWaste Coalition and the Miss Earth Foundation in urging the faithful to be mindful of the environment as we remember our dear departed ones. Let us keep garbage and pollution to a minimum and fulfill our shared responsibility as stewards of God's creations," Bishop Iñiguez
said. "Make a mark for the environment," the bishop further encouraged the groups.

To the general population who will visit the cemetery, the EcoWaste Coalition makes the following calls:

* Pick clean-burning candles that do not give off black fumes or ash. Candles that produce excessive soot can trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments. Also, shun candles with metal wicks, which may contain harmful chemicals such as lead, a neurotoxin.

* Light just enough candles to save on money and energy and to minimize pollution. It’s the thought that counts, not the number of candles set alight.

* Offer locally-grown fresh flowers instead of imported ones that are not only costly, but also require tons of energy to get them flown to flower shops and to you.

* Refrain from putting flowers in plastic wraps. Plastics eventually end up clogging waterways, injuring and killing marine animals, and poisoning communities with hazardous chemicals such as dioxins, the most toxic chemicals known to science, when burned.

* Desist from bringing or buying excessive amounts of food and beverage to the cemetery to cut on expenses and waste.

* Bring your own water in reusable jugs. Discarded plastic bottles add up to the country’s garbage problem. Plastics bottles, which are petrochemical products, also require lots of oil and chemicals to

* Pack everything you wish to bring to the cemetery in reusable bags and baskets in lieu of single-use plastic bags and containers. Instead of plastic disposables, better use banana leaves or containers that can be reused.

* Throw all discards into the proper recycling bins and be conscious at all times that littering in the cemetery – and elsewhere - is a NO-NO!

* Bring home all your discards for reusing or recycling. Give food leftovers to pet animals or turn into compost with other biodegradable waste, and reuse or recycle the non-biodegradable discards that may have further use.

* Carpool with your family instead of traveling in different vehicles. Avoid idling, this will save you gas and avoid pollution.

* Offer prayers of gratitude and remembrance to your departed ones.

For more details, please contact the EcoWaste Coalition at 929-0376.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376

12 October 2008

Austrian Groups Back Cancellation of "Toxic Debt"

Vienna, Austria; Manila, Philippines. Debt and development groups in Austria have thrown their support behind a growing movement in the Philippines to have an odious debt for highly polluting incinerators scrapped.

In a meeting in Vienna with a visiting representative of the "Stop Toxic Debt" (STD) campaign, the Austrian groups affirmed their unity with Filipino lawmakers and activists who have joined forces to strike out the US$2.2-million payment for the controversial Austria medical waste project in the proposed national budget for 2009.

"We hear what the Filipino people are saying and warmly support the moves by the civil society and the Congress to get the Austrian government to cancel the loan and put an end to this story of debt and pollution that has tainted Austria's official development assistance to the Philippines," Thomas Wenidoppler of the Export Credit Agency Watch (ECA Watch Austria),

Rudolf Remler Schoeberl of DKA-Austria, a Catholic group that supports human rights and development projects overseas, stated that "the continued payment for the wasteful debt is depriving Filipinos, especially the poorest of the poor, with the resources to meet their basic human needs. This is unacceptable and has to be corrected."

Both Wenidoppler and Schoeberl also welcomed the idea of Philippine legislative and civil society leaders visiting Austria to bring the "toxic debt" issue before the members of the Austrian parliament and the general public.

Manny Calonzo of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) reported from Vienna that the STD partners in Austria have already initiated steps to raise the debt issue with concerned politicians as well as with the Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs.

"We value the solidarity and participation of our NGO counterparts in Austria to rectify the gross injustice of toxic technology transfer that the Filipino people continue to pay at the expense of increased spending for public health and environmental protection," Calonzo said.

The Austrian medical waste project, signed in 1996, originally cost PHP503-million. As of 2007, the Philippines has already paid a total of PHP599-million for the principal and the interest payment of 4% per year. The debt will mature on September 30, 2014.

STD partner groups and political allies have argued that the "freed resources from the cancellation of illegitimate loan projects could be used to reduce child mortality, avert maternal deaths and combat life-threatening diseases; expand other health programs; purchase medicines and hospital beds; hire additional health workers; or ecologically process or treat infectious or pathological waste without incineration."

The report "Toxic Debt" by the EcoWaste Coalition criticized the loan for the 26 now decommissioned medical waste incinerators as an "onerous Austrian legacy" for the country.

Another report "Bad Medicine" by Greenpeace Southeast Asia slammed the dumping of the obsolete incinerators in the name of development assistance as a "blatant form of toxic trade."

The STD campaign count among its partners the EcoWaste Coalition, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia and Health Care Without Harm.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376

08 October 2008

Groups woo lawmakers with flowers, ask to strike out incinerator loan payment in 2009 budget

Quezon City- Environmentalists and anti-debt advocates trooped today to the House of Representatives to ask lawmakers to strike out in the proposed national budget the payment for what they call an illegitimate debt to Austria involving the Department of Health's purchase of twenty-six medical waste incinerators in 1997.

Activists from the Eco Waste Coalition, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace-Southeast Asia and Health Care Without Harm donned in gasmasks gave flowers to lawmakers urging them to sign the parliamentarians' petition launched by Representatives Edcel Lagman and Risa Hontiveros-Baracquel asking Austria to cancel the same loan.

Among those who expressed their support and signed the petition were Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo, Iloilo Rep. Janeth Garin, Agusan Del Norte Rep. Edelmiro Amante, Northern Samar Rep. Emil Ong, YACAP Party-list Carol Lopez, Bulacan Rep. Pedro Pancho, Bohol Rep. Edgar Chato, Zamboanga Rep. Maria Isabelle Climaco and Butil Party-list Rep. Leonila Chavez.

The 26 medical waste incinerators which comprised the loan were distributed to DOH-controlled hospitals. But following concerns regarding their safety, emission tests were conducted by the DOH and the World Health Organization (WHO). The result of the those tests showed that the incinerators had extremely high emissions, with one incinerator exceeding the limit set by the Philippine Clean Air Act for dioxins and furans more than eight hundred times. This prompted the DOH to decommission the incinerators in order to comply with the Clean Air Act.

According to Merci Ferrer of Health Care Without Harm, "We ask our congressmen to again withhold payment of the loan in the 2009 national budget, just as it did previously in the 2008 budget. And we hope this time the President can be prevailed upon not to veto it."

The original cost of the total incinerator project, which Greenpeace branded as a case of toxic technology transfer, was P503, 647, 200. For 2009, data submitted by the Department of Budget and Management show that the principal and interest payments for next year would amount to US $2.2 M.

In the General Appropriations Act of 2008 approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Austrian loan was included in the list of those loans "challenged as fraudulent, wasteful, and/or useless" and whose interest payments were put on hold "pending loan renegotiation and/or condonation." The provision, however, was vetoed by the president.

The said groups also reiterated the call to Congress by social movements for a moratorium on external debt payments and the transformation of that fund into an economic stimulus package. The groups urged lawmakers to realign the total P200-billion foreign debt service earmarked for 2009 in order to boost spending on social and economic services that will contribute in shielding the Philippines from the global fallout of the current American economic crisis.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376

02 October 2008

Immediate Return of Endosulfan to Israel Sought

Quezon City. The environmental and health group BANtay Endosulfan today renewed its call for the immediate return of the highly toxic pesticide to Israel for environmentally sound disposal.

Bantay Endosulfan, a non-governmental group monitoring the retrieval and disposal of endosulfan from the MV Princess of the Stars, pressed for the “return to sender” option as packs of the toxic chemicals are retrieved from the sunken vessel.

“In the interest of public health and safety, we urge Del Monte Philippines, Inc. (DMPI) to prepare and proceed with its plan of shipping back the dangerous chemicals to its Israeli manufacturer,” Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition, a partner group of BANtay Endosulfan, said.

“The ongoing legal case involving DMPI and Sulpicio Lines should not in any way impede the immediate removal of endosulfan from the Philippine soil. Photo and video documentation and other pertinent certifications and records should be admissible in court,” Calonzo added.

Rep. Edcel Lagman, a lawyer himself, expressed support for the BANtay Endosulfan’s proposition saying that “you need not preserve the body of a murder victim in the morgue to prove the crime.”

In her letter to the EcoWaste Coalition, Undersecretary Maria Elena Bautista of the Department of Transportation and Communications, confirmed that DMPI intends to return the organochlorine pesticide to its manufacturer, the Makteshim Agan of Israel.

“Upon retrieval of the endosulfan, Del Monte as consignee and supposed owner of the cargo intends to ship back said chemical to its manufacturer in Israel,” Bautista wrote in reply to BANtay Endosulfan’s query on how the salvaged pesticide will be disposed.

Bautista also informed BANtay Endosulfan that in light of the ongoing court case between DMPI and Sulpicio Lines the recovered endosulfan will be put in custody of the court as evidence while the case is being litigated.

According to the DOTC official who also heads the Task Force MV Princess of the Stars, the court will assign a warehouse for the temporary storage of the endosulfan as approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau.

“There is simply no justification for endosulfan to remain in the Philippines and pose grave threats to the health and safety of handlers and transporters and to the very community where it will be stored,” BANtay Endosulfan stressed.

BANtay Endosulfan was initiated by environmental and health groups to thwart the possible disposal of the retrieved cargo through incineration or landfilling, and also to press for a total ban on the importation, sale and use of the highly toxic pesticide.

Comprising BANtay Endosulfan are the Cavite Green Coalition, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm, Pesticide Action Network and the Sibuyan Sentinels League for Environment.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376

01 October 2008

Solons seek cancellation of Austrian incinerator loan

Quezon City. Philippines- Reps. Edcel C. Lagman and Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel have asked the Austrian government to cancel the loan that financed the 1996 Austrian Medical Waste Incinerator Loan Project, branding it obsolete, illegitimate and unscrupulous and enjoining colleagues in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to sign the petition.

The petition is part of the Stop Toxic Debt Campaign of the Eco Waste Coalition, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Greenpeace Southeast Asia and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH)- Southeast Asia .

The 1996 loan agreement worth P503.65 million involves the acquisition of 26 medical waste incinerators from Austria for use of government-run hospitals in the Philippines .

The petition will be presented to the Austrian parliament.

According to Lagman and Hontiveros-Baraquel, they will ask their colleagues in Congress to sign the petition as well as remind them of their previous decision to suspend interest payments for the said loan agreement in the 2008 Budget.

The 14th Congress passing the 2008 budget provided a special provision suspending interest payments amounting to P 5 billion for loans challenged as fraudulent, wasteful and/or useless. The Austrian Medical Waste Incinerator Project was included in the list.

However, President Arroyo vetoed the provision. In the proposed P 1.41 trillion 2009 budget, payment for said project is reportedly pegged at $ 2.2 million or P100 million.

Manny Calonzo of Eco-Waste Coalition said that this is another case of a "1st world country waste thrown to a 3rd world like the Philippines" citing that the incinerators were of poor quality, having failed to pass the emission levels guaranteed by the supplier and the emission tests conducted by the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a 2003 emission test conducted by the WHO and the DOH, the dioxin emission of one incinerator tested was eight hundred times the limit set by the Philippine Clean Air Act.

He added that in contravention of European Union (EU) environmental standards, the incinerators exceeded the EU limits on emission. An EU-member country is supposed to accept, enforce and implement EU standards into its national law.

When Austria and RP entered the agreement, there is an EU Council Directive concerning the incineration of hazardous waste, which regulates among other pollutants, dioxins and furans.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376