EcoWaste Coalitions Urges Government to Leave No Stone Unturned in Verde Soko Fire Investigation

Photo Courtesy of Rep. Juliette Uy

The waste and pollution watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition has thrown its support behind the call made by Misamis Oriental 2nd District Representative urging the authorities to investigate the fire that destroyed part of the 5,177 tons of illegal waste materials from South Korea that are due for re-export next month.

In her Facebook post yesterday, Uy posted photos of the burning waste materials as she sought for “immediate arson investigation.”  Her post can be seen here:

“I appeal to the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to immediately go to the Phividec industrial estate to investigate and arrest all those responsible for this air pollution crime," she said.

In reaction, Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition said: “We strongly deplore the fire incident that has only aggravated the pollution brought about by the dumping of illegal mixed plastic waste shipments from South Korea on a government land in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.”

“We urge concerned law enforcement agencies to leave no stone unturned in the investigation being conducted to bring the culprits to justice,” she added.

The perpetrators of this crime should be held liable under the country’s law on arson, as well as Republic Act 8749, or the Clean Air Act, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.  

The open burning of mixed plastic wastes, which are mainly comprised of chlorinated compounds, has certainly resulted to the discharge of toxic and poisonous fumes that are detrimental to human health and the environment, the group said.  

Among the contaminants resulting from the burning of chlorinated materials are byproduct dioxins and furans, which are targeted for global reduction, if not elimination, under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

Other pollutants of concern resulting from open burning include heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, and fine particles or particulate matter.

These pollutants are known to cause a variety of health problems such as headaches, eye, throat and skin irritation, impaired respiratory functions, aggravated asthma and chronic bronchitis, heart attacks and even cancers, the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

According to RA 8749, “no person shall be allowed to burn any materials in any quantities which shall cause the emission of toxic and poisonous fumes.” 

“Such materials include but not limited to plastic, polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene, paints, ink, wastes containing heavy metals, organic chemicals, petroleum related compound, industrial wastes, ozone depleting substances and other similar toxic and hazardous substances,” the law said.

RA 8749 further bans and penalizes any “establishment, firm, company, government or private entity or organizations… to burn or cause open burning of waste materials in their premises, area of jurisdiction, including recognized or unrecognized dumpsites in any quality or quantity.”

According to the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 8749, “any person who burns municipal waste in violation of Sections 1 and 3 of Rule XXV shall be punished with two years and one day to four years imprisonment.”

While those found guilty of burning “hazardous substances and wastes in violation of  Section 1 of Rule XXV shall be punished with four years and one day to six years imprisonment.”

To prevent any further untoward incident that may delay the re-export of the South Korean wastes, the EcoWaste Coalition urged law enforcement agencies to ensure that the waste materials are secured 24/7 until these are shipped back to their origin in September 2019.