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PHUMP 3 Public Launch

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Environmental groups laud LGUs banning plastic bags

VARIOUS environmental groups are hailing the move of a growing number of provinces, cities and municipalities to phase out and ban the use of plastic bags.

The environmental groups, however, said the Philippines can do better by implementing a nationwide phase-out and ban the widespread use of plastic bags.

The groups said the practice is “killing” the planet.

So far, a total of 11 local government units (LGUs) have laws that ban or regulate the use of plastic bags. They are Muntinlupa City; Antipolo City; Carmona, Cavite; Los Baños, Laguna; Sta. Barbara, Iloilo; Lucban, Quezon; Infanta, Quezon; Imus, Cavite; Biñan, Laguna; Batangas City, Batangas; and Burgos, Pangasinan.

Groups push plastic bags phaseout on plastic bag-free day

Philippine environmental groups called for a phaseout of plastic bags as they marked International Plastic Bag-Free Day on Sunday.

The groups also called for a national law that will enhance waste reduction by prohibiting the same and promoting organic reusable bags.

"We know... that our noble legislators, led by the tireless committee on ecology, are doing their best to complement what our LGUs have started," EcoWaste Coalition president Roy Alvarez said before an activity where green groups were to make a chain made of used plastic bags and surrounded the full circumference of Quezon Circle.

The groups called for the enactment of a law that will:

* phase out plastic bags both regular and degradable;
* promote organic reusable bags;
* espouse take-back mechanisms and recycling;
* support LGUs in their waste management initiatives;
* impose environmental levy on plastic bags; and
* for accountability purposes, label so-called “degradable" plastic bags to show name of manufacturers, manufacturing date, and the degradation period of the bag.

The groups warned about the proliferation of so-called “biodegradable" plastics, and cited the findings of Loughborough University and DEFRA-UK.

The findings showed that while these materials may degrade in two to five years, their biodegradability remains unclear.

“Degradable plastic bags merely perpetuate ‘throw-away’ and ‘dispose-as-usual’ mentality as it gives the wrong impression that discarding them the habitual way is okay since they degrade anyway," said Greenpeace campaigner Beau Baconguis.

“This raises, at least, two problems: littering and continued production of plastic waste," she added.

Mother Earth Foundation President Froilan Grate said the trick is simply not to get duped into believing that degradable plastic bag is the solution.

“If at all, it is only a stopgap or temporary measure that we also have to do away with on our way back to using organic reusable bags," he added.

“We are glad that more and more provinces, cities, and municipalities are taking on what Los Baños town in Laguna, Muntinlupa City in southern Metro Manila, Batangas City in Batangas, Lucban town in Quezon, and other pioneer local government units (LGUs) have done. Let us re-think our relationship with plastic bags, knowing that local and environmentally sound alternatives are available," said Miss Earth Athena Mae Imperial.

“It is time we give our environment a break and our cottage industries that support local employment a boost," she added.

EcoWaste said there are presently more than 10 cities and municipalities that have banned plastic bags and about 10 more are proposing to do the same.

Recently, it said Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro attributed the welcome absence of floods in his city brought by storm "Falcon" to their plastic ban.

He said there was less trash along the waterways, which he said “eased the local government’s headaches in ensuring that rainwater would leave the city’s streets as soon as possible."

Discards survey conducted in 2006 and 2010 by EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, and GAIA found plastic bags comprising 51.4 and 27.7 percent respectively of the flotsam in Manila Bay. Plastics in general, including plastic bags, made up 76.9 and 75.55 percent respectively.

MMDA nabs 163 smokers on Day 1

At least 163 smokers puffing away in public places in Metro Manila were apprehended on the first day of a metro-wide anti-smoking drive, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) general manager Alex Cabanilla reported yesterday.

MMDA environment enforcers, aided by local government personnel, enforced the crackdown on smoking in public places and public conveyances starting yesterday. The MMDA conducted a month-long information drive in June to warn persons spotted smoking in public places.

The MMDA said those apprehended yesterday, given violation tickets by the MMDA’s environment enforcers, will have to pay a P500 fine for their first offense.

According to the MMDA, as of June 27, it managed to warn 8,792 smokers who were seen puffing in areas designated as public places by Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Control Act.

Smokers who will be apprehended for the second time will have to pay a P1,000 fine while those arrested for the third time and for subsequent offenses will have to pay a P5,000 fine. Those who will not be able to pay the fines will be made to render eight hours of community service.

Under RA 9211, public places are defined as “enclosed or confined areas of all hospitals, medical clinics, schools, public transportation terminals and offices, and building such as private and public offices, recreational places, shopping malls, movie houses, hotels, restaurants, and the like.”

Meanwhile, “public conveyances” are defined by RA 9211 as modes of transportation servicing the general population such as, but not limited to, “elevators, airplanes, buses, taxicabs, ships, jeepneys, light rail transits, tricycles, and similar vehicles.”

Tolentino also said that enforcers will also implement anti-smoking laws of various local government units. Four cities – Caloocan, Muntinlupa, Mandaluyong and Parañaque – have banned smoking in “open spaces,” including sidewalks.

Tolentino also said that unless a particular Metro Manila local government prohibits it, smoking is allowed in private vehicles.

Green group backs MMDA

The environment watchdog EcoWaste Coalition yesterday aired its support for the MMDA, saying that non-smokers’ right to health should also be protected.

“We join the MMDA in their strong-willed campaign to make the national capital region safe from tobacco pollution. We appeal to the general public to support this initiative that seeks to protect the public health and the environment from toxic smoke and litter,” said coalition president Roy Alvarez.

The move had also gained the backing of various groups, including the Philippine Medical Association, Health Justice and Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP).

In a joint statement with EcoWaste, FCAP executive director Dr. Maricar Limpin said the program is commendable. “We laud the MMDA for its smoke-free campaign as this will protect our right to health as enshrined in the Constitution and in various international instruments on human rights,” she added.

EcoWaste and FCAP said the campaign complements the Philippines’ commitment to implement the provision in the World Health Organization-initiated Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The FCTC, signed by the Philippines in 2003 and ratified by the Senate in 2005, mandates the implementation of a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship and smoking in public places.

P-Noy Gets Low Grade for Slack Pace in Solving Garbage Woes

Environmental, climate and health justice groups today released a report card revealing a lackluster performance by the government in the field of waste prevention and reduction in its first year in office.

Over 50 groups affiliated with the EcoWaste Coalition, a grassroots environmental network, expressed dissatisfaction with the inadequate headship by President Benigno S. Aquino III in solving the nation’s longstanding battle against garbage.

Through a 12-points questionnaire, the groups, many of whom have a long history of fighting the corruption-riddled “hakot-tambak” (collect-dump) system of managing discards and promoting eco-solutions, rated P-Noy’s performance, lamenting the failure of his government to shut down polluting dumpsites and overturn costly obsession with technology fixes such as landfills and incinerators.

“For not showing decisive interest, leadership and action in preventing and reducing garbage and all its attendant problems, we give the Executive Department headed by the President an overall grade of 2.65 points out of 10,” stated Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

The Aquino administration ranked lowest in terms of integrating waste pickers in ecological solid waste management programs, in enforcing the ban on waste incineration, in prohibiting the open burning of discards, in disallowing the entry of toxic waste and in ensuring the environmentally-sound management of hazardous waste materials such as electronic waste, and in directing the closure, cleanup and rehabilitation of illegal dumpsites.

“This is not to put down the President, but to notify him about the severity of the problems and persuade him to urgently delve into green governance issues such as zero waste resource management,” he clarified.

“For sure, there were some environmental pronouncements and initiatives during the past 12 months, but we frankly expect more from P-Noy because he has an outstanding social contract with the Filipino people ,” he emphasized.

To demonstrate his determination to keep our communities and ecosystems safe from garbage and pollution, the EcoWaste Coalition asked P-Noy to chair at least one full meeting of the National Solid Waste Management Commission, which is under the Office of the President, secure its budget and set its direction, prioritizing the calling for public consultation in coming up with the list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging, as required by R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

It is imperative likewise for the President to exercise his supervisory power and authority over the local government units, as the prime enforcers of RA 9003, and unhesitatingly hold fully accountable the laggards among the local chief executivesin the no-nonsense implementation of the law.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which is under the power of control of the President, should already close the illegal dumpsites all over the country.

To ensure wide participation of the public, DENR should likewise subject proposed regulatory measures to a public comment period for at least 60 days.

“We’re not losing hope and we look forward to a better-looking report card next year for the sake of Mother Earth and our people,” he added.

Here’s P-Noy report card on waste and pollution issues, 10 points being the highest grade possible:

1. For not voicing his support loud enough towards a “litter-free Pilipinas,” the President collected 3.06 points.

2. For failing to stop the wasteful and polluting practice of open burning, the government obtained 2.40 points.

3. For letting incinerator “monsters” destroy resources and pollute communities, government regulators received 2.24 points.

4. For the lax enforcement of the required sorting of reusable, recyclable, compostable and residual discards at source, the national and local authorities earned 2.88 points.

5. For not taking resolute action to close, clean up and rehabilitate some 790 open dumpsites and 382 controlled dumpsites, and for not establishing enough materials recovery facilities or ecology centers to replace these pollution hotspots, the government got 2.50 points.

6. For allowing the construction and operation dirty disposal technologies in environmentally-critical places such as the Marikina watershed area in Sierra Madre, the government gathered 2.66 points.

7. For the inactive promotion of composting as the best approach to managing organics, the authorities got 3.08 points.

8. For the slow progress in including waste pickers in formal waste management programs, the government got the lowest mark at 2.18 points.

9. For the sluggish action to ban the production, distribution or use of “non-environmentally acceptable packaging materials,” the authorities collected 2.58 points.

10. For failing to curb the entry of toxic waste and ensure the environmentally-sound management of hazardous waste such as electronic waste, the government got 2.46 points.

11. For the ineffective public information and education on ecological waste management, the government received 3.16 points.

12. And lastly, for not pushing Zero Waste enough as a concrete pollution, climate and unemployment solution, P-Noy and his administration received 2.58 points.

Makati urged to expand drive towards mercury-free city

An environmental watchdog has commended the government of Makati City for its pioneering initiative to make the country’s premier business and financial capital “mercury-free.”

“Makati’s effort to raise public awareness about the need for environmentally-sound management of mercury-containing lamp waste is a feat worth replicating by other local government units,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We urge the Makati authorities to expand and sustain this beneficial program beyond the June to September 2011 timeframe to make it truly effective,” he said.

“We also hope to see Makati introducing more trailblazing measures to keep the city’s homes, schools, businesses, clinics and hospitals free from mercury hazards,” he suggested.
Makati City, in partnership with Zuellig Building, has so far collected 1.58 tons of discarded lamps and batteries that were deposited in custom-built recycling bins located at the Makati City Hall in Barangay Poblacion, Zuellig Building in Makati Avenue corner Paseo de Roxas and in the Barangay Urdaneta office.

The spent lamps are then sent to a government-accredited treatment, storage and disposal facility located in Marilao, Bulacan for proper resource recycling.

To make the program more accessible to Makati’s nearly 600,000 residents, the EcoWaste Coalition has requested Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay to install more lamp recycling bins in the city’s 33 barangays.

“Apart from the barangay halls, we suggest putting secured lamp recycling bins in other places frequented by the public such as in churches, markets and schools,” Dizon stated.

“It will surely help if the City Council will pass the first-ever ordinance establishing a system for environmentally-sound management of mercury-containing lamp waste to prevent mercury contamination of regular trash,” he pointed out.

“Such a system would necessitate, among other essentials, a sustained public information drive, the integration of the city’s informal recyclers such as the waste pickers into the scheme and the imposition of fines and penalties for improper lamp waste disposal,” he added.

To make Makati City “mercury-free,” the EcoWaste Coalition urged Mayor Binay to seriously consider instituting other practical measures to curb mercury releases, particularly from intentional sources such as mercury in laboratories and schools, in cosmetics and in medical devices.

Specifically, these measures would include:

1. Ordering schools to remove and discontinue use of mercury compounds and mercury-containing equipment to prevent chemical spills;

2. Directing regular market surveillance to rid shops of banned personal care products such as mercury-tainted skin whitening creams; and

3. Auditing hospitals and clinics to check their compliance with the phase-out and storage of mercury in health care facilities.

“Makati City, we further hope, can push the government into adopting and enforcing effective national mercury control laws and regulations, as well as support the ongoing process for a comprehensive and robust global mercury treaty,” the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.

Exposure to mercury, a heavy metal with chemical symbol “Hg,” can cause significant adverse health effects.

According to the United Nations Environment Program and the World Health Organization, “the primary targets for toxicity of mercury and mercury compounds are the nervous system, the kidneys, and the cardiovascular system.”

“Other systems that may be affected include the respiratory, gastrointestinal, hematologic, immune and reproductive systems,” the agencies said.

Muntinlupa flood-free; landmark plastics ban cited

With the intensity of the intermittent rains that began on Thursday, certain areas in Muntinlupa City could have been just another statistic in the national government’s flood monitoring.

But to Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro’s surprise, the anticipated flooding in some parts of the city did not happen, with rainwater flowing freely through canals and waterways and making their way to Laguna de Bay.

San Pedro cited Muntinlupa’s landmark ban on plastics and polyestrene containers, which was implemented early this year, as among the factors that kept the city free from flooding.

“When our personnel did the cleanups in the past weeks, there was less trash along waterways,” he said in an interview. San Pedro acknowledged that the ban was not the ultimate solution to the flooding problem, but pointed out that it eased the local government’s headaches in ensuring that rainwater would leave the city’s streets as soon as possible.

He identified three areas in Muntinlupa’s National Road that he and other officials had anticipated to be flooded—the part near City Hall, the part near Barangay (village) Putatan, and the part near the Pepsi plant in Barangay Tunasan.

These portions of the road are among the low areas on the thoroughfare that act like a catch basin, and floodwaters there rise up to the knee on the average, he said.

San Pedro also surmised that the construction developments in these areas could also be a factor in the flooding situation. But overall, he said, the city government minimized the effect of the intermittent rains by making sure the areas were drained immediately.

“We could still have pushed through with classes in the city had not the Department of Education suspended the classes in Metro Manila [on Friday],” he said.

And the top 10 poisons are...

Fear not it’s National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW)! The mere mention of the word poison is enough to make us cringe. By poison, we mean a substance that can cause a disturbance to organisms, usually by chemical reaction, when a sufficient amount is ingested. Of course, there are the other potent things that can poison the mind and pollute the soul, but I digress.

FYI, as per Presidential Proclamation No. 1777, Series of 2009, NPPW is held annually every fourth week of June to raise public awareness on poison prevention.

To mark NPPW (and tell everyone there’s such a week), a toxic watchdog urges the public to watch out for poisons and take life-saving precautionary measures to avoid poisoning accidents that can endanger children’s health.

What are these chemical hazards lurking in our own home and how do we prevent poisoning, especially among our precious children? To dramatize the importance of the celebration, members of the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol trooped to Mega Q-Mart (the former Nepa Q-Mart) on EDSA to disseminate vital bits of information. Holding up big mock images of product containers that bear the morbidly familiar symbol of skull and cross bones, the AlerToxic patrollers mingled with shoppers and gave out leaflets entitled Kalatas (short for Kamalayan sa Lason at Lunas or Awareness on Poison and Cure). The very absorbing leaflet contains handy, down-to-earth tips that parents, teachers, and workplace managers will find useful in reducing, if not eliminating, chemical poisoning as a result of improper purchase, handling, use, and storage of products containing harmful substances.

“The myriad of poisoning cases involving children due to the consumption of or exposure to harmful products and substances should stir parents, as well as school administrators and teachers, into employing precautionary steps to stop such incidents,” says Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

And what are the top 10 poisons? Citing data from the 2010 annual report of the UP National Poison Management and Control Center (NPMCC), the EcoWaste Coalition reports that the top 10 poison agents in terms of in-patient referrals for the pediatric age group are: kerosene, caustics (such as chlorine bleach), silver jewelry cleaners, pesticides (like insecticide lotion and spray, and rat poison), ferrous sulfate, elemental mercury (like the silvery liquid in some thermometers), paint thinner, paracetamol, button cell batteries, and benzodiazepines (psychoactive drugs).

“Many of the poisoning cases that have occurred in the past could have been prevented if only these common sense tips (mentioned below) were applied,” laments Dizon.

And the top tips to prevent poisoning are:

• Be a health and safety-conscious consumer: Read product labels, demand chemical information, and select non-toxic products.

• Keep a record of hazardous and potentially hazardous products, as well as wastes, in your home, school or workplace such as cosmetics and toiletries, cleaning agents, automotive supplies, herbicides, pesticides, and other products with added toxic chemicals.

• Label chemicals and store them properly in a dry, locked or tamper-proof cabinets.

• Ensure that chemicals are out of children’s and pets’ reach, and far away from food and water. Do not store cleaning supplies with or near food items.

• Follow instructions for the safe handling, application, and storage of products containing harmful substances, including directions for safe disposal.

• Never mix chemicals unless specified in the instructions to avoid risky chemical reaction (for example, combining ammonia with bleach will yield poisonous gas).

• Ensure that chemicals are tightly capped and securely stored after use to avoid emission and spillage, and never leave them unattended.

• Do not remove poisonous products from their original containers or packages and do not destroy product labels or inserts, which could contain life-saving information.

• Never store chemicals in beverage or food containers as children tend to associate potable drink and edible food with some containers.

• Do not place ant, roach, and rat poisons on the floor that children can mistakenly ingest. Try non-chemical alternatives to get rid of household pests.

• Keep medicines duly labeled and stored in child-proof containers and cabinets, and check the labels and expiry dates before taking them.

• Refrain from taking medicines in front of kids as they tend to mimic what adults do. Kids should not be told that medicine is candy.

• Dispose of used button cell batteries properly and keep the unused ones far from children’s reach.

• Have a first-aid kit ready and accessible in case of an emergency.

• Regularly wash or clean children’s hands, toys, and other items and places frequently used by kids to minimize potential exposure to lead and other harmful chemicals.

• Know where to call or get help in the event of suspected or actual poisoning. Call or visit a doctor at once and be sure to keep the original container of the ingested substance for reference. You may also contact the UPNPMCC at the following numbers: 524-1078, 554-8400 local 2311, 0922-8961541.