EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Chemical Accident Prevention as Part of Earthquake Preparedness

An environmental network for chemical safety and zero waste has expressed its support for enhanced collaboration among the various stakeholders to minimize the adverse impacts of strong earth movements and other natural exigencies.

The EcoWaste Coalition joined the growing call for earthquake preparedness as two government agencies, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOCS), urged the public to be ready for any future emergencies. 

The MMDA last Sunday advised Metro Manila's residents to check on the structural safety of homes and buildings following the devastating quake in Nepal that killed over 8,500 people with dozens still missing.

While PHILVOCS yesterday warned the public anew of a massive quake if the Valley Fault System moves.  The system is comprised of the 10-kilometer East Valley Fault in Rizal, and the 100-kilometer West Valley Fault, which passes through six Metro Manila cities and parts of the Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal provinces.

“Given that many of our communities are at risk for earthquakes, we cannot overstate the value of multi-stakeholder coordination and preparation to be done now before the big one strikes,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect. 

“As earthquakes can trigger chemical spills, explosions and fires, as well as toxic releases and exposures, it’s important for all facilities, public and private, to double check their preparedness in preventing and reducing chemical-related incidents during natural disasters,” he said.

“For instance, toxic materials should be properly labeled, used, stored, treated and disposed of in an environmentally-sound manner to avoid chemical accidents in normal and abnormal times that can poison humans and other living things,” he said.

Dizon specifically cited the need for institutions with high child and youth occupancy to review their current procurement and storage practices for hazardous substances, including cleaning agents and laboratory chemicals.

He also cited the need to revive the process initiated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources “to strengthen the capability of government, industry and community to eliminate or reduce injuries and deaths caused by major chemical accidents.”

“This process would have established a formal Task Force on Chemical Accident Prevention and Preparedness (CAPP) that is tasked to develop, implement and monitor the country’s road map on CAPP,” he said.

“The likelihood of a hugely destructive earthquake happening during our lifetime and the occurrence of extreme weather events like super typhoons makes CAPP all the more essential for our country and people,” he emphasized. 

A strong CAPP program is vital for a disaster-prone country like Philippines, which “sits in a typhoon belt in the Pacific ring of fire where earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tropical cyclones frequently occur, which can trigger or aggravate chemical accidents,” the EcoWaste Coalition said, citing a government draft policy on CAPP.