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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Group urges DOH to update banned firecrackers list

The Department of Health (DOH) should update its "black list" of banned firecrackers in time for the upcoming New Year celebration to further minimize injuries among revelers welcoming 2011.

In a letter sent to Health Secretary Enrique Ona, the EcoWaste Coalition asked the Health department to include in its "black list" more types of dangerous fireworks, such as the following:

* atomic big triangulo
* piccolo
* kwitis
* luces
* five-star
* PVC bazooka, cannons or guns

Based on the Philippine National Police's 2007 list, the following firecrackers are already banned:

* Lolo Thunder
* Super Lolo
* Bawang (large)
* Pla-pla
* Watusi
* Kwiton
* Giant Whistle
* Judas Belt (large)
* Og
* Atomic Bomb

“We are keen to collaborate with the DOH in achieving our shared purpose of minimizing, if not eliminating, the risks and hazards posed by firecrackers to life, limb and property, and to the ecosystems as a whole," wrote Roy Alvarez, president of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The environmental group also asked for strict implementation of the ban on imported firecrackers and fireworks under Section 6 of Republic Act 7183 or An Act Regulating the Sale, Manufacture, Distribution and Use of Firecracker and Other Pyrotechnic Devices. (See: Coast Guard's K-9 unit foils attempt to smuggle firecrackers)

The other proposals suggested by the group to Secretary Ona include:

1. Giving an environmental slant to the campaign against firecrackers, by emphasizing the need to reduce harmful smoke, litter and noise that can aggravate and endanger the health of humans and animals.

2. Issuing a health advisory on noise pollution as the result of exploding firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices. (See: Two months before Christmas, DOH issues paputok warnings)

3. Pushing to declare church, school, hospital, zoo and public market areas as “silence zones," where the exploding of firecrackers will be strictly forbidden. (See: DILG orders inspection of firecracker factories)

The environmental coalition urged the government to further push the anti-firecrackers campaign by tapping celebrities to make public appeals on the issue.

In the past, the group's “Iwas-PapuToxic" events had attracted thousands of young students from Krus na Ligas Elementary School, Esteban Abada Elementary School, Claret School, and the Marcelo H. del Pilar Elementary School.

The group has also partnered with the Miss Earth Foundation, Ministry of Ecology of the Our Lady of Remedies Parish in Malate, and with animal rights groups to convince the public to use safe and emission-free noisemakers, instead of firecrackers.

The Health department earlier recorded close to 1,000 revelry-related injuries in the first four days of January 2010, which are 190 cases more than in 2009. (See: Revelry-related injuries now at 920 — DOH)

Almost 900 of these cases involved injuries from fireworks and 42 injuries from stray bullets.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Environmental group backs careful inspection of shipments

Barely a month before Christmas, an environmental watchdog urged Custom authorities to foil probable smuggling of toxic and hazardous goods into the country.

The EcoWaste Coalition welcomed the move by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) at the Manila International Container Port and Port of Manila to defer recently the release of 15 container vans loaded with imported plastic toys, firecrackers and other goods from China and Hong Kong.

Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez earlier said the shipment will only be released after rigorous examination.

“We support the more careful inspection of these Christmas shipments to ensure that dangerous goods such as toxic toys, substandard lights and perilous firecrackers are not put up for sale in the local market,” said Roy Alvarez, EcoWaste Coalition president.

“The stringent scrutiny by our customs officers is needed to thwart any attempts by crooked traders to make profits from the sale of dangerous products that could jeopardize public health and safety,” he added.

Hadlangan ang pagpasok ng mga peligrosong produktong pamasko

LABINLIMANG container van na puno ng mga plastik na laruan, paputok at iba pang produktong pamasko ang pinigilan ng Bureau of Customs (BOC) upang dumaan sa mas masusing pagsisiyasat.

Ang mga kargamentong inangkat mula Hong Kong at Tsina ng iba’t ibang negosyante ay nasa Manila International Container Port at Port of Manila at naghihintay ng permiso upang ligal na makapasok, maipamahagi at maipagbili sa lokal na merkado.

Dahil papalapit ng papalapit ang Pasko ay inaasahang daragsa pa sa mga daungan ang tone-toneladang paninda na mabenta tuwing Disyembre, katulad ng mga laruang pambata.

Sa paliwanag ni Commissioner Angelito Alvarez: “We have to keep a more vigilant watch and conduct thorough inspection of all vans to ensure the safety of the consuming public during the holidays.”

Dagdag naman ni Customs Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Group Filomeno Vicencio, Jr.: “We’re still in the process of verifying documents. We have to double check if the shipment were covered by the required import permits from other government agencies like the Departments of Agriculture, and Trade and Industry, or the Philippine National Police.”

Tamang-tama ang hakbanging ito ng Adwana na dapat bantayan at suportahan ng mga mamamayan para matiyak ang kalusugan at kaligtasan ng mga mamimili laban sa negosyanteng nagbabalak magsamantala.

Ang mas pinahigpit na pagsisiyasat sa mga daungan upang mapigilan ang pagpasok ng mga mapanganib na produkto ay mabilis na sinang-ayunan ng EcoWaste Coalition na paulit-ulit ang babala laban sa pagpasok ng mga laruang kontaminado ng mga toksikong sangkap.

“We support the more careful inspection of these Christmas shipments to ensure that dangerous goods such as toxic toys, substandard lights and perilous firecrackers are not put up for sale in the local market,” pahayag ni Roy Alvarez, Pangulo ng EcoWaste Coalition.

“The stringent scrutiny by our customs officers is needed to thwart any attempts by crooked traders to make profits from the sale of dangerous products that could jeopardize public health and safety,” wika pa niya.

Upang maipabatid sa mas maraming Pilipino, mahalaga na ilathala ng BoC ang listahan ng mga laruang hindi nila pinayagang makapasok dahil sa mga taglay na peligrosong kemikal.

Gaya ng ginagawa ng US Consumer Product Safety Commission, maaari itong ilathala sa website ng BoC, kasama ang mga pangalan, kantidad, pabrikang may gawa, bansang pinaggawaan, panganib at litrato ng mga produktong tinanggihan ng Kawanihan.

Hadlangan rin sana ng Adwana ang pagpasok ng mga inangkat na mga produktong paputok na ipinagbabawal sa ilalim ng Republic Act 7183.

Gayundin, mas pahigpitin rin sana ang pag-inspeksyon sa mga produktong agrikultural upang matiyak na hindi tayo magiging bagsakan ng mga prutas, gulay at karneng kontaminado ng pestisidyo at iba pang banta sa kalusugan.

Panghuli, ang pinaigting na pagsisiyasat sa mga kargamento ay maging kalakaran nawa hindi lamang tuwing sasapit ang Pasko.

Kailangan natin ang ganitong paghihigpit araw-araw upang sawatain ang pagbabagsak sa ating mga daungan ng mga mapanganib na angkat, produkto man ito o basura.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Capitol gains ash dump ECC

The Province has acquired an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) that will allow it to use part of a beachfront property as a dump for coal ash from power plants, in exchange for fees.

Environmentalists want to see the ECC for themselves, but will question its issuance.

Capitol spokesman lawyer Rory Jon Sepulveda confirmed the Province obtained an ECC weeks ago, which meant the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has affirmed the project set up in the former Balili resort property in Tinaan, Naga.

Lawyer and environmentalist Gloria Estenzo-Ramos said she wrote the DENR a letter to ask for a copy of the ECC within five working days.

She questioned the reported issuance of the ECC, saying there was no public hearing among the affected residents. Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 requires that such a hearing be held.

The ECC lists measures a project proponent has to take in order to lessen any damage it may cause to the environment. The DENR grants it after reviewing and approving the project's environmental management plan. Social acceptability is one of the conditions.

Naga City Mayor Val Chiong, in a separate interview, said no public hearing was conducted regarding the use of part of the beachfront property as a coal ash dumping site.

However, Chiong clarified a public hearing may have been held at the barangay level.

DENR

Sepulveda said that Ramos and other parties involved in the dispute are being more obstructionists than environmentalists.

The Asian Development Bank, he added, would not be funding the project if it was hazardous to the public.

He said the Province will proceed with the development of the Balili ash landfill, unless "a lawful order from a competent authority" tells it not to do so.

The DENR 7, for its part, referred all questions about the ECC to Regional Executive Director Leonardo Sibbaluca and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Central Visayas Director Alan Arranguez. But both officials were unavailable yesterday. Sibbaluca was reportedly in South Korea, while Arranguez was attending a Senate budget hearing in Manila.

Meanwhile, the former owners of the Balili property reportedly insisted the land they sold was not underwater. They said this in answer to a case the Capitol filed to ask for a refund of P37.8 million.

At the pre-trial hearing of the civil case, Provincial Attorney Marino Martinquilla said yesterday, the Balilis maintained the beachfront property in Naga, Cebu is not submerged.

The Province intends to present a geodetic engineer to support their claim for the refund, representing the Capitol's payments for submerged or mangrove-covered portions of the nearly 25-hectare property, said Martinquilla.

Regional Judge Regional Trial Court Branch 14 Judge Raphael Yrastorza resumed Wednesday the hearing on the civil case for specific performance and refund, which the Capitol had filed.

Witnesses

The Provincial Legal Office had asked the court to order lawyer Romeo Balili, the estate executor, to reimburse the Capitol a total of P37,810,400. That's what the Capitol paid for two properties, totaling 94,526 square meters.

The Province also asked for interest.

It plans to present at least three witnesses to support the claim for a refund. Trial will resume on December 10.

The discovery of the submerged and mangrove portions was one finding the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas cited, when it found basis to upgrade into a criminal case an anonymous complaint filed against Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr. and the Provincial Board (PB) for the purchase of the Balili property.

The graft investigator also recommended a separate criminal investigation for gross inexcusable negligence against the governor, vice governor and 12 PB members, over the absence of a feasibility study and "a thorough verification of the area to be purchased, taking into consideration the huge amount involved."

Blow

Former PB member Juan Bolo and nine other Capitol officials will face a separate criminal investigation for "conspiring and confederating with each other in the purchase of a land which is classified as timberland".

Environmentalists recently welcomed the ombudsman's announcement that it would upgrade an anonymous complaint into a criminal investigation against some Capitol officials.

But the reported issuance of the ECC dismayed them.

Ramos, responding to Mayor Chiong's statement that the public hearing may have been held in the barangay, said the town has an obligation to answer for consequences from coal ash dumping.

The Municipal Government, through the council, should call for a public hearing since any effects will have an impact not only on the environment, but also the health and livelihood of residents.

Ramos pointed out that RA 9003 also requires a dumpsite should be at least 50 meters away from any source of water.

She asked why an ECC was issued, when there's an ongoing case on the property.

Ramos, along with the Philippine Earth Justice Center Inc. and other group, had filed a petition for an environmental protection order against the DENR 7, EMB 7, the governments of Naga and Toledo, the Provincial Government and operators of coal-fired power plants all over Cebu.

Exclude

They complained about the allegedly indiscriminate dumping of coal ash.
The DENR 7 and EMB 7 submitted yesterday a motion to RTC Judge Marilyn Yap, asking the court to exclude them as respondents to the case.

Lawyer Tranne Lee Digao-Ferrer, who represents DENR and EMB, said in a separate interview the two environment agencies shouldn't be included, as these agencies make sure companies meet environmental standards set by law.

The agencies said there can be no legal right against the authority "that makes the law on which the right depends."

Like Ramos, Vince Cinches of the Fisherfolk Development Center said he will also write DENR to ask about the reported ECC for the dumping of coal ash in the former resort the Province has purchased.

He said environmentalists have a reason to be hopeful because a resolution was filed in Congress yesterday calling for a 50-year moratorium on coal-fired power plants.

Representative Manny Pacquiao, he pointed out, "is consistent in his campaign against polluters and those that can cause climate change like coal power plants".

Their team is willing to present scientific data to support their observation that coal ash poses a health hazard and has been liked to respiratory diseases in parts of Cebu.

As for being called an obstructionist, he said: "No amount of name-calling can clear them from the anomalous, fraudulent purchase of the Balili property."

Group backs stringent BOC inspection of Christmas holiday imports

A non-government environmental organization backed a recent action by the customs authorities to foil probable smuggling of toxic and hazardous goods into the country as Christmas comes closer.

The EcoWaste Coalition welcomed the move by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) at the Manila International Container Port and Port of Manila to defer the release of 15 container vans loaded with imported plastic toys, firecrackers and other goods from China and Hong Kong until after rigorous examination.

Reports quoted Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez as saying “we have to keep a more vigilant watch and conduct thorough inspection of all vans to ensure the safety of the consuming public during the holidays,” while Customs Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Group Filomeno Vicencio, Jr. described their action “as part of the risk management measures of the Bureau.”

“We support the more careful inspection of these Christmas shipments to ensure that dangerous goods such as toxic toys, substandard lights and perilous firecrackers are not put up for sale in the local market,” said Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“The stringent scrutiny by our customs officers is needed to thwart any attempts by crooked traders to make profits from the sale of dangerous products that could jeopardize public health and safety,” he added.

To safeguard the health of toy-loving children, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the BOC to publish the brand names, photos and other product specifications and the test results of toys that the Bureau had rejected due to high levels of lead and other harmful chemicals.

The BOC supposedly examines toy shipments, obtaining samples of products from the lot and sending the samples to an independent private laboratory for analysis. Toys that failed the tests are issued warrant of seizure and detention.

“We urge the BOC to make these toxic toys known to the consumers through the BOC website and the popular media in order to inform and protect the public, especially the children,” stated Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats)

Toys containing lead and lead-based paint, Dizon pointed out, are dangerous because they expose children to this brain-damaging chemical through their common hand-to-mouth activity.

Health experts believe there is no defined safe level for lead as they can be toxic to children even at low levels.

With respect to firecrackers, the EcoWaste Coalition sought the help of BOC in strictly enforcing Section 6 of Republic Act 7183, which prohibits the importation of finished firecrackers and fireworks.

Additionally, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the BOC to strictly examine food imports such as typical holiday fruits and delicacies, ensuring they do not contain hazardous levels of pesticide residues and other contaminants.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Civil society groups back new climate body vice chair

A nationwide network of civil society groups on Tuesday expressed support for newly appointed Climate Change Commission (CCC) vice chairperson Lucille Sering, saying her appointment to the post signals reforms in the climate body.

“We welcome this development as it ushers in the much-need reforms in a commission formerly beset with an uninformed and biased leadership," Rowena Bolinas of the Aksyon Klima network said in a statement on Tuesday.

She likewise lauded President Benigno Aquino III’s “swift and decisive" action to replace former CCC vice chairperson Heherson Alvarez, who has drawn flak in the past months due to his supposed “unilateral" decisions in the body. (See: PNoy lauded for replacing Alvarez as CCC vice chair)

“President Aquino made the right decision in appointing Commissioner Sering as the new vice chairperson. Now, we can look forward to a more consultative climate body that seeks to listen to the voices of vulnerable sectors affected by climate change impacts," she said.

Sering, who once served as Department of Environment and Natural Resources undersecretary, took her oath on Monday afternoon as the new CCC vice chairperson, in ceremonies administered by President Aquino himself.

As the new vice-chairperson, Sering now serves as the executive director of the body, which is chaired by the President.

Chito Tionko, a civil society representative, meanwhile challenged Sering to take concrete steps to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“We should be ready to shift to organic agriculture, shelve our coal plants, establish an efficient mass transport system and ban logging and mining," he said in the same statement.

Tionko will be one of civil society representatives of the Philippine delegation to be sent to Cancun in Mexico in December for the next round of climate change talks,

He likewise said that the new climate body vice chairperson must take steps now to update the existing National Framework Strategy on Climate Change in the light of possible developments from the Cancun talks.

Mother Earth deserves gift, too

AS we continue with our piece on eco-friendly Christmas -- it is useful to reflect on what to give our godchildren, relatives, workmates, neighbors and friends in light of what our Mother Earth needs: a break from crass consumerism that is hurting her.

Mindful of the state of our ailing environment, Zero Waste advocates once again put their heads together to come up with a list of eco-friendly gift ideas for you and me to consider, knowing that Mother Earth deserves a gift from us, too.

Previously, we had cited practical pre-shopping and actual-shopping tips, which if observed, would minimize unnecessary expenses, especially for budget-conscious consumers. At the same time, those tips can contribute to cutting emissions resulting from unbridled consumption.

Following are eco-friendly gift ideas:

1. Think about giving gifts that you obtained but have not used.

2. Look through your closet -- give away clothes and accessories that your friends might have been admiring -- a pretty scarf, a nice jacket, a cute bag, etc.

3. Share books that have been read to friends who have the same interest.

4. On recycled Christmas cards, write messages to family and friends and include a photo or two you have of them.

5. Cut up old Christmas cards and reuse them as gift tags.

6. Send e-cards in lieu of paper cards. Personalize them with your own graphic designs or choice photos.

7. Share your signature home-made goodies and dishes, especially from “secret” personal or family recipes.

8. Cook Noche Buena dinners for street children or for families who do not have anything to eat on Christmas Eve.

9. Tell your loved ones that instead of giving them gifts this year, you will make donations in their names to charities, orphanages and environmental projects.

10. Draw or paint creative stuff on flat and smooth stones to make paperweights, plain mugs to make pencil holder or bayong or katsa bag to make your shopping bags more “sosyal.”

11. Choose gifts that come with little or no packaging at all such as gift certificates, movie or concert tickets, bus or train passes, raffle coupons, etc.

12. Don’t wrap gifts. If wrapping is really needed, try old magazines or newspapers, discarded bandannas or fabric scraps. You can also use craft paper and jazz it up with colored pencils.

13. Give gifts that grow and restore the environment: plant and flower seeds or bulbs, kitchen herbs or tree saplings.

14. Patronize local products such as handicrafts made by indigenous and rural communities, jail detainees and the urban poor, non-toxic personal care items, organic products from health and wellness groups, reusable bags from women’s and environmental groups, and other gift items from charities and cooperatives.

15. Buy simple notebooks, cover them with attractive used fabrics and write at the bottom of every 15th page inspirational verses or excerpts from poems and songs.

16. When giving toys, choose ones that are free of choking, laceration and toxic hazards and are age-appropriate and properly labeled.

17. Shun replica guns and other war toys. Go for toys that promote creativity, non-aggressive behavior and social harmony.

18. Gift your barangay by getting involved in a neighborhood project that will serve the poor or preserve the community environment.

Christmas shoppers told: Be nature friendly

THE Philippines is said to have the longest Christmas celebration in the world and attached to it are the early preparations for the biggest event this year.

As the holiday extravaganza kicks in, an environmental group advised shoppers and motorists on how to make their Christmas experiences fun and nature friendly.

“With the huge amounts of fossil fuels spent, greenhouse gases emitted and trash created during the most festive time of the year, Christmas can be ‘traumatic,’ instead of fun, for the climate and Mother Earth,” said Roy Alvarez, president of the EcoWaste Coalition.

According to the group’s “Climate Change Survival Guide”, the extraction, transportation, processing, manufacturing, marketing and advertising and disposal of these products consume lots of energy and all result in greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet.

This means that every time we buy something, energy was used to produce that item and get it to us, using up planet’s finite resources and causing emissions at every step of the path, the EcoWaste Coalition explained.

“We make the holiday pollution worse by our failure to embrace the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) as core practices in our personal, family and community lifestyles,” said Alvarez, adding that a stinking garbage would surely ruin the yuletide spirit.

Data from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) showed that people here dump 6,000 metric tons of trash daily.

Things however are expected to turn ugly on holiday breaks as the metropolis’ garbage production can even go up by a third or even double in some areas. The nation’s capital region has more than 12 million inhabitants.

After the merrymaking and celebration of the Savior’s birth, common sightings in some of Metro Manila’s streets are bins and bags overflowing with plastic garbage, packaging materials, kitchen discards and party leftovers.

Ugly and smelly dumps also thrive on street corners and around market areas, commented the EcoWaste Coalition.

To avoid an upsetting Christmas celebration for Mother Earth, EcoWaste called on shoppers to organize and plan trips to the wet market, supermarkets or malls to reduce transportation costs as well as ease holiday traffic jams.

Aside from that, the group urged the public to bring their own bayong or reusable carry bags, buy in bulk to cut on product cost as well as packaging waste and select products made of recycled materials and with the most recycled contents.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, for his part, asked shoppers to patronize products of companies or organizations known to implement green practices in their business processes.

Paje suggested foregoing the usual gift wrappers and instead packaging gifts in “bayong” or reusable bags as a way of reducing the amount of disposable plastic bags that clog the nation’s waterways.

“We hope these tips, which were suggested by our affiliates, would help our people in lessening the environmental impacts of our merry Christmas celebration and making it in harmony with faith, life and nature,” Alvarez said.

Monday, November 22, 2010

EcoWaste Coalition urges new Barangay and SK officials to pursue Zero Waste program

After asking candidates to clean up their campaign mess, environmental advocates now advised soon-to-be installed Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) leaders to make Zero Waste a cornerstone of the grassroots reform agenda.

The new batch of Barangay and SK leaders of the country’s 42,025 barangays will assume their three-year term of office by noon of Nov. 30.

“Environmentally-conscious Barangay and SK leaders offer a beacon of hope to our ailing Mother Earth,” said Eileen Sison, NGO Representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

“They can spur a truly grassroots movement for ecological renewal involving the local households, institutions and enterprises, including the informal sector,” stated Sison.

“Trash and litter, the most obvious evidence of community negligence and decay, should be a top priority for our soon- to-be installed leaders,” Sison suggested, stressing that a people-backed Zero Waste program is urgently needed to deal with the pervasive garbage threat that is also affecting the climate.

A successful barangay-centered program on Zero Waste, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, will rely hugely on a dedicated team who will initiate, organize and monitor creative citizens' education and mobilization for sustained waste prevention, reduction, segregation at source, recycling and composting efforts, including resource recovery involving the informal recyclers.

As directed by Republic Act No. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, each barangay should constitute a Barangay Solid Waste Management (SWM) Board whose functions include the formulation of SWM plan and the establishment of materials recovery facility to replace polluting dumps.

“To start with, the new Barangay SWM should initiate honest-to-goodness review of how R.A. 9003 is currently enforced in the community, not to find faults, but to determine specific remedies or components for improvement,” stated Roy Alvarez, president of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Headed by the Barangay chair, the Barangay SWM Board also includes one Barangay kagawad, the SK chair and the presidents, principals or representatives of the public/private schools, parents and teachers associations, homeowners associations, market vendors associations, junkshop owners associations and transportation, environmental and religious groups operating in the community.

As regards the SK, the EcoWaste Coalition dared the youth leaders to really make a difference this time and carry out concrete activities that will empower and benefit the youth and the community.

“We know that not a few influential people have sought the abolition of the SK, claiming that the youth councils have become a breeding ground for corruption at young age,” noted Alvarez.

“Our SK leaders can prove their critiques wrong by embarking on enduring activities, not ningas cogon (grassfire) and publicity stunts, that will enhance youth involvement in environmental and other community concerns,” he added.

“Being a member of the Barangay SWM, the SK chair can be a driving force in raising environmental awareness and responsibility among children and youth, particularly in cutting their waste size,” Alvarez pointed out.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Eco group scores DOT on slogan

An environmental watchdog hit the slogan of the Department of Tourism, saying the catchphrase may turn out to mean the opposite.

The Department of Tourism has launched the new slogan, “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” (Philippines So Beautiful) in an attempt to draw tourists into the country.

But EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog criticized the DOT’s failure to rid the streets and other places frequented by tourists, of trash.

EcoWaste Coalition president Roy Alvarez said the slogan “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” might become “Pilipinas Kay Pangit” (Philippines So Ugly), “Pilipinas Kay Kalat” (Philippines So Messy), or “Pilipinas Kay Dumi” (Philippines So Dirty) unless the DOT turns serious in solving the perennial problem of garbage.

He said tourists will not be attracted to come into the country, if they will only see trash and litter everywhere they go.

“Our tourism authorities seem to have not noticed the ubiquitous litter making our country unappealing for visitors searching for exceptional places to see, relax and enjoy,” he said.

“For sure, these unsightly sites will not leave positive memories in the hearts and minds of our guests,” Alvarez added.

He said the government should be serious in implementing the recycling of trash for the protection of the environment.

“To emphasize our government’s commitment to waste prevention and reduction, DOT’s campaign logo should also incorporate the ‘chasing arrows,’ the universal symbol for recycling,” he suggested.

The group said the nation’s tourism industry will only have a competitive edge over other Asian countries if the Philippines is clean of trash and tourist attractions and destinations are protected from environmental abuse.

EcoWaste Coalition has earlier asked Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim to implement DOT Memorandum Circular No. 2005-04 declaring 'Zero Tourism Waste as a goal and direction for sustainable tourism and development."

Greenpeace confirms the facts—and the fears

Also in Karambola sa dwIZ, we had the opportunity to speak to the international environmental organization Greenpeace in connection to the recent public uproar regarding the reported plans by the Quezon City government to expand the illegal Payatas dump.

Greenpeace confirmed the existence of such a plan and announced that it had filed a case against the Quezon City government. Greenpeace is joined in this cause by the larger Eco Waste Coalition which has actively opposed the operation of the city dump since 2004.

Greenpeace spokesperson Beau Baconguis said the new dump is being referred to by the city government as an “engineered landfill”. But environmentalist groups remain wary about the fact that a dump would still be a dump, whether it is engineered or otherwise.

According to Baconguis, his group will oppose the expanded dump because it remains a danger to the environment due to the toxic landfill leachates that emanate from it. Not to mention of course the danger that such chemicals pose to human lives and health.

That Greenpeace and the Eco Waste Coalition are at the forefront of the opposition to the expanded Payatas dump should worry Quezon City Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista. Greenpeace is an international organization. It is safe to presume that just like Payatas I, the expanded Payatas II has already attracted international attention.

Already, the Quezon City residents are upset over an apparent betrayal of their trust on the part of Bautista. The mayor had earlier announced that he was committed to shutting down Payatas “on or before December 30 this year” after keeping it in operation for 10 years in what appears to be a clear and flagrant violation of the country’s environmental laws.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje himself confirmed this outright violation of the law even as he admitted the seeming impotence of the national government to deal with this.

But the public appeared ready to forget this pathetic situation when Bautista announced that the end of Payatas was within sight…only to be disappointed by news that what the mayor actually intends to do is open up Payatas’ adjacent lot, thereby simply expanding the old dump’s area. And now we learn that it will be called an “engineered” dump.

A week ago, the public’s fears were based on reports from the environmentalist circles.

Greenpeace has now confirmed the facts—as well as the fears.

Now, we can say for sure that Bautista’s was an empty promise. Clearly, he manipulated public emotion.

Greenpeace and other environmentalist groups say they will sustain their opposition to a Payatas II because of the damage to the environment that the mayor’s scheme could cause.

But there is more than just damage to the environment to fear.

Quezon City residents could end up paying for what Greenpeace said would be the continuing destruction of that city’s environment.

***

In our column last week, we bared that the Payatas dump was not only illegal. Taxpayers paid for its operation. And taxpayers paid expensive fees.

We explained that this was something ironic—and puzzling —because Bautista’s local government actually owns the land where the illegal Payatas I dumpsite sits.

Now, the prospective Payatas II is reportedly a private piece of land.

We reiterate the nagging question that festers in the people’s mind. Would this mean even more expensive fees for the garbage haulers and operators? Taxpayers will have to be charged more for Quezon City’s looming use of the Payatas II dump?

And would calling the expanded dump “engineered” justify the heavier toll it would take on public funds?

Wouldn’t an “engineered” dump on private land mean “more expensive”?

Greenpeace says it has been fighting the Payatas dump and the idea of an “engineered” version of this facility since 2000. It fought these symbols of death and environmental destruction alongside the Church and other civic groups.

The strong stand of Greenpeace and other environmental groups against Bautista’s scheme gives us hope that a Payatas II could still be stopped.

It is sad that the country has to rely on volunteer groups like Greenpeace to champion the compliance by local government units to the country’s environmental laws.

Secretary Paje admitted that his agency is helpless. It seems Bautista is set to take advantage of that helplessness.

We can only keep our fingers crossed that environmental groups would not blink or get tired in the battle for the environment.

'Writ of Kalikasan' issued vs pipeline

The Supreme Court yesterday temporarily stopped First Philippine Industrial Corp. (FPIC) from operating its pipeline earlier found to be leaking fuel in a residential area in Makati City.

For the first time, the SC issued a “writ of Kalikasan” and temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) under its new rules on environmental cases, ordering FPIC to “cease and desist from operating the pipeline until further orders from the Court.”

The Court initially granted a petition filed last Monday by residents of West Tower Condominium and Barangay Bangkal who claimed to have suffered health and environmental hazards from the leakage.

The writ of Kalikasan is a remedy formulated by the Court under the watch of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno to better protect the rights of the citizens to a balanced and healthful ecology as enshrined in the Constitution.

Petitioners’ lawyer Lorna Kapunan immediately lauded the order, giving assurance that the temporary closure of the 117-kilometer pipeline of FPIC that transports fuel from refineries in Batangas to Manila would not affect the supply of fuel and gasoline in the market.

She said the Department of Energy has already required oil firms during inspection of the site earlier in the day to take part in the Senate probe to find alternative ways like use of barges and trucks to deliver their supplies to fuel stations all over the metropolis.

Chief Justice Renato Corona issued yesterday the writ of Kalikasan in compliance with the rules on environmental cases requiring issuance of the order three days after filing of the petition that is found “sufficient in form and substance.”

Court administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said respondent is required to submit return of the writ within a non-extendible period of 10 days from receipt.
FPIC was also ordered to check the structural integrity of the entire span of its pipeline and submit a report to the Court within 60 days.

In a press conference, Marquez stressed that the Court issued the order after taking into consideration the danger that the pipeline poses to the public.

He said any repercussion of the writ – especially to the business of FPIC and oil firms – should be raised to the Court when respondents submit the return.

After submission of the reply of FPIC, the Court would then look into the merits of the case and decide whether the closure of the pipeline would become permanent.

In their petition, the residents invoked their constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology in seeking the building of a new pipeline.

They said FPIC should be held liable for the leakage, which has been causing respiratory problems and groundwater contamination in the area, due to its failure to maintain and secure the structural integrity of the 43-year-old pipeline.

“The omission or failure of FPIC to timely replace the old, spilling and damaged pipelines and to observe extraordinary diligence as required from it as a common carrier, particularly in ensuring that the pipelines are in good condition, especially since the goods that it transports are hazardous to those exposed to it, caused the petroleum spill,” they alleged in the 36-page petition.

Petitioners said FPIC, as a common carrier and public utility, failed to perform its duties with high degree of care or extraordinary diligence.

This violates Article II Section 16 of the Constitution, which protects right to healthful ecology.

They warned that the damages of the leakage could extend to other areas covered by the pipeline that runs from Batangas to the Pandacan oil depot in Manila because of such “acts of negligence” of FPIC.

They added that the continuous use of the pipeline would not only be a hazard or a threat to the lives, health and property of those who live in areas where the pipeline is laid, but would “also affect the rights of the generations yet unborn to live in a balanced and healthy ecology.”

To allow the continuous operation of the pipeline and its imminent environmental damage would be a clear violation of the Clean Water Act of 2004, the Clean Air Act of 1999, and Presidential Decree 1152 or the Philippine Environmental Code, they added.

They said there is a need for FPIC to continue checking the structural integrity of the pipeline and make periodic reports until a replacement is built.

Petitioners also asked the Court to “prohibit (the Lopez-owned firm) from opening the pipeline and allowing the use thereof until the same has been thoroughly checked and replaced.”

They also sought the opening of a special trust fund “to answer similar contingencies in the future.”

Kapunan told reporters in an interview that they opted to go straight to the SC instead of filing the petition in the trial court to do away with a filing fee that could amount to P45 million.

She said the 80 families residing at the West Tower Condominium do not want a band-aid solution to the problem and they want the pipeline permanently shut down and a new one laid out.

She said the residents did not only suffer financially due to the gas leak, but they also had health problems caused by gas fumes they inhaled since July.

The petroleum leak, first reported in July, had prompted the Makati City government to evacuate the residents of the condominium, where large amounts of diesel, kerosene and other petroleum products had accumulated at the basement.

Named respondents in the petition were officials of FPIC and its manager First Gen Corp. led by chairman of the board Federico Lopez and chairman emeritus Oscar Lopez.

The petition in the SC was filed while FPIC told the Senate at a hearing that it has undertaken enough measures to look for the leakage and has helped the residents of the condominium by providing portable vacuums to remove the fumes.

The firm claimed that most of its pipeline is “safe and only needs some checking at several points.”

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras refused to comment on the issuance of the writ of Kalikasan against FPIC.

“I don’t want to react in the context that I don’t want to be accused of siding with any particular interest group,” Almendras said.

Almendras, however, warned that the continuing delay in the operation of the pipeline would cause a nightmare to oil companies, which will eventually affect consumers.

“But I will tell you honestly now that we have problem, as we already have a problem now. So the prolonged closure is going to create more problems. The alternatives is we better start buying and importing tanker trucks, barges and ships, if we can find them,” he said.

“Because there must be a way to transport that refined product from Batangas to Manila. There must be a way of controlling the tides at the Pasig River, because when the tide is too high the barges cannot go in there because you hit the bridges. When the tide is too low, the barges cannot go in because it’s too shallow,” he said.

“Those are the realities that we have to face up to. It’s not as if we bring in x number of barges and the problem is solved. There are other choke points, there are logistical realities that have to be faced,” he said.

Officials of FPIC were not available for comment.

Plastic bags banned in Marikina cops’ headquarters

The headquarters of the Marikina City police is a zero-plastic zone—well, almost.

A policeman caught bringing a plastic bag into the police station will have to do 20 pushups as penalty. Jail visitors, on the other hand, are stopped whenever the desk officer spots food carried in plastic bags.

The 300-strong police force of Marikina City launched the campaign in January this year, and was admittedly far different from their usual anti-criminality drives, said Senior Superintendent Romeo Magsalos, Marikina police chief.

By his estimate, Magsalos said the police have prevented at least 120,000 plastic bags from being thrown into the Marikina River, and the city’s canals and dumps.

“This is a simple effort. We don’t need huge funds to be able to do this. By merely refusing to use plastic bags and Styrofoam, we can contribute our bit to the prevention of environment degradation,” Magsalos said.

“We were also victims during the ‘Ondoy’ floods and I felt we had to do something,” Magsalos said.

He recounted that while wading through the flood waters last year, he saw countless plastic bags floating in the water.

Magsalos said he is hoping other police stations would follow their lead. “Our job is not only to protect our people but the environment as well,” he said.

“One trillion plastic bags used worldwide every year, and only one percent are recycled. The rest end up in our rivers and oceans,” he said.

“Carrying a plastic bag means 20 pushups for us and a reprimand from the boss,” said Police Officer 2 Dhonnie Deladia of the police’s community relations unit.

He recalled the timPlastic bags banned in Marikina cops’ headquarters

By NiƱa Calleja
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:27:00 11/19/2010

Filed Under: Synthetics & Plastics, Police, Environmental pollution

MANILA, Philippines—The headquarters of the Marikina City police is a zero-plastic zone—well, almost.

A policeman caught bringing a plastic bag into the police station will have to do 20 pushups as penalty. Jail visitors, on the other hand, are stopped whenever the desk officer spots food carried in plastic bags.

The 300-strong police force of Marikina City launched the campaign in January this year, and was admittedly far different from their usual anti-criminality drives, said Senior Superintendent Romeo Magsalos, Marikina police chief.

By his estimate, Magsalos said the police have prevented at least 120,000 plastic bags from being thrown into the Marikina River, and the city’s canals and dumps.

“This is a simple effort. We don’t need huge funds to be able to do this. By merely refusing to use plastic bags and Styrofoam, we can contribute our bit to the prevention of environment degradation,” Magsalos said.

“We were also victims during the ‘Ondoy’ floods and I felt we had to do something,” Magsalos said.

He recounted that while wading through the flood waters last year, he saw countless plastic bags floating in the water.

Magsalos said he is hoping other police stations would follow their lead. “Our job is not only to protect our people but the environment as well,” he said.

“One trillion plastic bags used worldwide every year, and only one percent are recycled. The rest end up in our rivers and oceans,” he said.

“Carrying a plastic bag means 20 pushups for us and a reprimand from the boss,” said Police Officer 2 Dhonnie Deladia of the police’s community relations unit.

He recalled the time when the police chief saw him holding a plastic bag. “I was punished that day and had to do 20 pushups,” the policeman said.

Deladia added that they were also asked to refrain from using plastic in their homes. “We were told that change must start from us, and we must also teach our children to do the same,” he said.

e when the police chief saw him holding a plastic bag. “I was punished that day and had to do 20 pushups,” the policeman said.

Deladia added that they were also asked to refrain from using plastic in their homes. “We were told that change must start from us, and we must also teach our children to do the same,” he said.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Aquino dared to push clean energy

WITH the Philippines’ vast potential to produce clean and renewable energy, it can produce clean energy that will meet half of the country’s projected energy requirement in the next 10 years, the environmental group Greenpeace said on Wednesday.



In a news conference in Quezon City, Jasper Inventor, climate and energy campaigner of Greenpeace International, said even at a 5 percent to 6 percent annual growth, by 2020, the country should be able to produce enough energy by tapping the still-untapped renewable-energy sources such as wind and solar power.



Citing data from the Department of Energy, Greenpeace said in a statement that the country’s total wind-power potential is at 70,000 megaWatts (mW) and solar-power potential is at 5.1 kiloWatt-hours per square meter.



Greenpeace’s report titled “Energy [R]evolution” mapped out a scenario, wherein the contry can source 50 percent or half of its energy needs from renewable energy by 2020. This includes 8,000 mW from wind power and 1,000 mW from solar power.



Currently, the country’s installed capacity from wind and solar power is 33 mW and 1 mW per square meter, respectively.

Inventor said President Aquino can make it happen by exercising political will and taking the lead in promoting investments in renewable-energy sources over coal-fired power plants.



The challenge was issued by Greenpeace as it intensified its campaign against coal, with the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior’s arrival in the Philippines on November 19 for its “Turn the Tide Tour of Southeast Asia.”



The Rainbow Warrior will dock at Makar Wharf in General Santos City in Mindanao. Its visit also marks Greenpeace’s 10 years’ work in Southeast Asia.



Greenpeace urged Mr. Aquino to board the Rainbow Warrior when it docks in Manila from November 27 to 29 and asked him to make a strong commitment for the achievement of 50-percent renewable energy by 2020.



Greenpeace is promoting clean, renewable energy and nixes the construction of more coal-fired power plants to meet the global energy demand.



In the Philippines, Greenpeace is focusing in Mindanao, where the energy demand is big and investment for coal-fired power plants is currently pouring.



Currently, the Philippines’ installed capacity is 16,000 mW— from coal-fired power plants and fuel-based power generators. 

Inventor said Mr. Aquino should start by putting in place the implementing rules for the renewable-energy law which was signed by his predecessor, former President Gloria Arroyo, on December 16, 2008.



“Once the implementing rules for the renewable-energy law are in place, investors will start to come in,” Inventor told the BusinessMirror.



He said recent talks with Steve Sawyer, secretary-general of the Global Wind Energy Council, confirmed that private investors are just waiting for the government to put in place a mechanism and investment on renewable energy will start pouring in.      



Mark Dia, country representative of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, challenged President Aquino to make a commitment to a green development pathway.



He said a massive uptake of renewable energy, decentralized smart energy grids and energy efficiency technologies, are keys to mitigating climate change, and the humanitarian crises brought about by its catastrophic impacts.



Dia said the conditions in the Philippines make it a clear leader in such an undertaking, with the landmark Renewable Energy Act, and with readily available renewable-energy sources.



“The only obstacles are aggressive lobby efforts by dirty coal-power producers, and the lack of political will to challenge the status quo,” he said.



“Opting for the Energy [R]evolution pathway can be ’Noy’s contribution to the continuing legacy of the Aquino family in bringing about peaceful, sustainable power to the people,” he said.

Abad: Palace to tackle leadership crisis in climate body

A senior palace official promised to request President Benigno Aquino III's intervention in the long-simmering leadership crisis at the Climate Change Commission (CCC) following a colleague's criticism of vice-chairperson Heherson Alvarez at a dialogue Wednesday.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who represented the palace at the forum, made the promise after climate commissioner Lucille Sering openly criticized Alvarez for “lack of transparency" in making decisions within the three-member commission.

“You’re not transparent. You don’t tell us what’s going on. If we do something contrary to your plans, you’ll take us out of the delegation and punish us through your power of the purse," Sering told Alvarez during the national climate change dialogue held in Pasay City.

Alvarez denied the charges, saying “[Those] are incorrect. All transactions in this commission have been done transparently. I have not acted unilaterally on decisions. We just need to define functions in the commission."

After listening to the exchange, Abad said: “We will help settle this leadership issue. It is difficult to make things work with all these (problems)."

Abad said he would ask President Aquino to create a sub-cluster in the Cabinet that would take care of climate change mitigation efforts, which could help solve the various environmental problems in the country.

“There is a place in the President’s priorities for these environmental efforts," Abad said.

Climate loans

During the forum, Sering castigated Alvarez for supposedly taking her inquiries about the CCC’s funds “out of context." She added, “Please don’t make it appear that I take our funds home and deposit them to my personal bank account."

Alvarez, who was appointed as climate adviser by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the previous administration, has been drawing flak recently for his supposed unilateral actions within the commission.

The climate change official was summoned to the Senate last month after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile learned that the country incurred loans for climate mitigation.

He has also been widely criticized for allegedly taking over the CCC’s chairmanship — a position occupied by the Philippine president — and making important decisions without consultations. The climate body has three appointed commissioners, each serving a six-year term.

Abad urged the estimated 100 members of civil society groups that attended the dialogue to continue pushing their climate change agenda during the Aquino administration.

“Mahalaga na hindi lang nakalutang na mga programa ang mayroon para sa climate change. Dapat nakaugat ito sa iba pang programa ng pamahalaan. We can only do this with the help of civil society organizations," he said.

Cigarette butt litter promo denounced

ANTI-TOBACCO advocacy group, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance-Philippines (FCAP), yesterday denounced the move of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp., Inc. (PMFTC) to lead a campaign against cigarette butt littering but continues to produce cigarettes.

"It is sheer hypocrisy on their part to continue manufacturing tobacco products that have been causing diseases and deaths to millions of Filipinos," FCAP executive director Dr. Maricar Limpin said in a statement issued with the EcoWaste Coalition.

EcoWaste said the solution offered by the tobacco manufacturer is only "superficial" as it is not the real solution to the problem brought by smoking and cigarette butts.

"The provision of cigarette butt receptacles offers a very superficial and disproportionate approach to the severe health and environmental impacts of tobacco addiction. It misleadingly promotes the notion that it is perfectly alright for the people to smoke as long as they properly throw the butts," said Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, EcoWaste Secretary.

Last week, Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp., Inc. (PMFTC) launched its cigarette butt disposal campaign, dubbed BA2D2 as part of its unwavering commitment to reduce its business’ impact on the environment.

Cigarette butts have been found by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as the second highest pollutant due to the sheer volume of littered cigarette butts.

The two groups also warned local government units (LGUs) from taking part in the campaign as this could violate the Joint Memorandum Circular 2010-01 of the Department of Health and the Civil Service Commission.

The MC prohibits public officials and employees to solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gifts, donations and sponsorships from the tobacco industry.

According to PMFTC, more than a hundred BA2D2 cigarette butt receptacles have already been distributed in Tanauan City, Ilocos Sur, Boracay, Baguio City, Makati City, and other strategic areas.

Alvarez draws flak from climate body colleague for ‘lack of transparency’

Climate Change Commission (CCC) vice-chairperson Heherson Alvarez on Wednesday drew criticism from a fellow commissioner for supposedly making critical decisions for the body without consulting other members.

CCC member Lucille Sering openly hit Alvarez in a forum Thursday for his supposed “lack of transparency" in his dealings within the commission.

“You’re not transparent. You don’t tell us what’s going on. If we do something contrary to your plans, you’ll take us out from the delegation and punish us through your power of the purse," she told Alvarez in a national climate change dialogue held in Pasay City on Thursday.

Sering also criticized Alvarez for supposedly taking her inquiries about the CCC’s funds “out of context."

“Please don’t make it appear that I take our funds home and deposit them to my personal bank account," she told the official.

Alvarez, for his part, defended himself and said that all the commission’s transactions have been “very transparent."

“[Those] are incorrect. All transactions in this commission have been done transparently. I have not acted unilaterally on decisions. We just need to define functions in the commission," he said.

Alvarez, who served as climate change adviser during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has been drawing flak during the past months for his supposed unilateral actions within the commission.

The climate change official was summoned at the Senate last month after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile learned that the country incurred loans for climate mitigation.

He has also been widely criticized for allegedly taking over the CCC’s chairmanship — a position supposedly occupied by the Philippine president — and making important decisions without consultations.

Palace to intervene in issue

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who was present during the forum, said he will ask President Benigno Aquino III to intervene on the issue.

“We will help settle this leadership issue. It is difficult to make things work with all these," he said.

He also acknowledged the importance of climate change efforts in helping solve the various environmental problems currently besetting the country.

“There is a place in the President’s priorities for these environmental efforts," he said.

Abad likewise urged the more than a hundred civil society group members present during the dialogue to continue pushing for their climate change agenda in the present administration.

“Mahalaga na hindi lang nakalutang na mga programa ang mayroon para sa climate change. Dapat nakaugat ito sa iba pang programa ng pamahalaan. [It’s important that we have programs for climate change that aren’t just up in the air.] We can only do this with the help of civil society organizations," he said.

He also vowed to ask the President to create a “subcluster" in the Cabinet to tackle climate change mitigation efforts.

Gov't called to step up security vs fake medicine

Blame it to the country's 'weak' coastal security why smugglers are able to bring in counterfeit medicine.

Dr. Minerva Calimag, Philippine Medical Association (PMA) food, drugs, and cosmetics chairman, reportedly said that security in the country's coasts is weak, enabling smugglers to bring in fake medicine.

“If fake drugs are coming from outside [the country], our problem is how to secure the boarders because there are many channels through which it could come into the market,” Philippine Star quoted Calimag.

She also said that the government must be able to prevent the entry of counterfeit drugs to the country.

The Republic Act 8203, or the Special Law on Counterfeit Drugs, stipulates that fake medicines pertain to unregistered imported drug products. It also refers to medicinal products, both branded and generic, that lack sufficient quantity of active ingredients, or containing the wrong ingredients, or having fraudulently mislabeled packaging.

Tainted

The government had earlier received calls to toughen its measures in getting rid of of mercury-tainted beauty products sold in the markets.

In August, the EcoWaste Coalition reportedly said that despite the government ban issued in February, mercury-tainted cosmetics continue to be sold in parts of Metro Manila. GMA News said that the group laments the business-as-usual attitude of vendors of products such as skin lightening creams banned for containing high levels of mercury.

“It is obvious from the results of our test buys that the ban on mercury-tainted skin whitening creams is far from being enforced. It's high time for the government to flex its muscle, conduct stringent monitoring nationwide, and apprehend the culprits,” Aileen Lucero of EcoWaste's Project Protect reportedly said.

She also urged the authorities to protect unsuspecting consumers from being deceived and harmed by ensuring that only pre-tested mercury-free cosmetics are sold in shops.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had reportedly outlawed several products and filed cases against stores that sell banned, unregistered, and misbranded beauty care products.

The said products are mostly creams appearing to have originated from China.

Deemed to cure

Chinese medicinal and herbal products, along with the Chinese medicine in general, is said to be successful in treating wide range of conditions ranging from skin diseases, gastro-intestinal disorders, gynecological conditions, respiratory conditions, urinary problems, diabetes, and even psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.

But Philippine Pharmaceutical Association president Leonila Ocampo said that many Chinese medicinal and herbal products are not registered with the FDA.

Products not registered with the FDA is deemed counterfeit, although legitimate in the country where they were manufactured, she reportedly added.

From Payatas dumpsite blooms a musical genius

As a TV reporter, I have encountered thousands of people over the years. However, some people stand out in my memory, like the little girl Cecilia, a sampaguita vendor from the Payatas dumpsite in Quezon City.

The Payatas dumpsite has been one of Metro Manila’s main waste disposal facilities for the past 30 years.

Payatas accommodates a portion of the 1,200 tons of garbage collected daily from homes and business establishments in Quezon City.

Payatas circa 2001. An old photo taken of the Payatas dumpsite during the filming of Cesar Apolinario's "Promise Land" documentary.

For Cecilia and around 200,000 other persons, Payatas is “home." They live right at the dumpsite, which comprises about five percent of Quezon City’s 16,112.25-hectare land area.

Payatas dwellers like Cecilia make up less than 10 pecent of the city’s 2,487,078 residents (as of 2006).

Ironically, amidst foul-smelling garbage, Cecilia and her family weave sweet-smelling sampaguita leis which they peddle in the streets, mainly in the areas near the House of Representatives along Batasan Road in Quezon City.

On my way to work at GMA Network along EDSA in Quezon City, I have encountered Cecilia several times.

As I drive from home to work every morning, I see Cecilia selling sampaguita leis, unmindful of the rain, heat, and pollution, risking life and limb just to earn a few pesos to help feed her family.

I occasionally stop to buy two or three sampaguita leis and briefly chat with Cecilia. I learned that she is the eldest of five children.

Their parents are waste scavengers in Payatas. They wade through tons of garbage in Payatas in search of items they can profit from, such as empty plastic bottles which they sell at junkyards.

Gift of music

Moved by Cecilia’s story, I often wonder what happens later in life to children like her. Do they remain trapped in their poverty for the rest of their lives? Or do some of them get the chance to transform their lives even though they grew up under such circumstances?

Most of the children at Payatas will probably find it difficult to rise from their poverty. However, there is a boy there who seems to have a great chance at turning his life around.

I met Nathaniel on October 13 this year. I was assigned to do a story about him for the “24 Oras" newscast because this boy was blessed with extraordinary musical talent.

Only 11 years old, Nathaniel plays the piano immaculately. Despite his family’s poverty, Nathaniel learned to play the piano at the Payatas C Elementary School. He uses the piano donated to the school by a Japanese national.

Driven by his passion for music, Nathaniel practices playing the piano at school before and after classes.

Nathaniel is a musical genius. He can play songs within minutes of hearing them for the first time.

To hear how talented he is, I asked him to play the song “Faithfully" by the band Journey. Together, Nathaniel and I listened to the song on my Ipod for about 30 minutes.

After that, Nathaniel played the song on the piano while I sang the lyrics.

I was floored by Nathaniel’s amazing talent.


He plays gospel music at the church in Payatas. It seems that he inherited his musical ability from his father who also serves at the church by playing musical instruments.

‘Wish Ko Lang’

On November 2 of this year, All Souls’ Day, I received a call from the executive producer of GMA’s public affairs program Wish ko Lang (My Only Wish), a weekly program hosted by Vicky Morales.

The show grants the special wishes of people who are struggling in life.

According to the show, they needed someone to wish for something for Nathaniel. I was chosen as the “wisher" after having produced a story about him.

I wondered, what would a boy like Nathaniel wish for? Certainly, what a musical genius like Nathaniel probably longs for is a piano!

Just four days later, the show was ready to grant Nathaniel’s “wish." On November 6, the show invited Nathaniel to the RCBC Building in Makati. The producers told him that someone wanted to hear him play the piano.

Nathaniel plays "Faithfully" on his new piano.


The Wish Ko Lang staff asked me to stay backstage while the show’s host, Vicky Morales, asked him to play my favorite song “Faithfully."

Tears fell from my eyes as I heard Nathaniel play the song. Then I heard Vicky tell him, “Nathaniel, this piano is yours."

I could not contain myself. My hero was getting a piano!

Then Vicky revealed Nathaniel’s wisher by asking me to come forward.

Wish Ko Lang host Vicky Morales reveals Nathaniel's wisher.

I saw joy in Nathaniel’s eyes. He didn’t cry but I did. I was thinking of how a talented boy from Payatas would benefit from having his own piano.

I told Nathaniel to use the piano to reach for his dreams. He may have grown up in a world of poverty but he now has the chance to make life better for him and his family.

I revealed another surprise for Nathaniel: I will personally direct his music video!

For the video, I asked the help of my friend, composer Robert More, the artist behind Joey Albert’s hit song “Million Miles Away."

Robert reaches out to less fortunate children through the “Time to Share" foundation that helps hone the kids’ talents.

The author with gifted pianist Nathaniel.

We featured the gospel song arranged by Robert, “Pag-ibig ang Susi" (Love Is the Key) in Nathaniel’s music video.

Nathaniel played the piano while the group La Diva – composed of Mariciris Garcia, Aicelle Santos and Jonalyn Viray – sang the song.

We recorded the video at Lupang Pangako (Promised Land), Barangay Payatas, Nathaniel’s home.

Growing up poor

Nathaniel’s story reminded me of my own life story. Growing up poor, I worked as a lead vocalist for a band to send myself through school.

I was only a high school student then and apart from studying my lessons, I had to learn the lyrics of songs that were popular at the time, the 80s, such as those of the band Guns and Roses.

Images of my childhood filled my mind as I listened to Nathaniel play gospel music on the piano. When I was young, I used to wake up every day to the loud gospel music played in our neighbor’s house.

That eventually led me to have a love for music in general. For me, gospel music became one of the most wonderful sounds I have ever heard. Music became my way of escaping from my daily hardships.

From our neighbor’s stereo, I heard songs like “Awit Ko Para sa Kanya" (My Song for Him), composed by Robert More.

An excerpt from the song that goes “Panaginip lamang ang mga hangarin kong kay taas, na dulot ay kasing sama ng aking buhay, awit ng pag-ibig ang awit ko’t handog, sa paglikha mo sa akin o Diyos."

I use to play the guitar. I used to think that my hands were created to make music for others. However, as the years passed, these hands instead wove stories, screenplays, news reports, documentaries, essays, among others.

I might have failed in my dream of becoming a musician but perhaps I can help another human being, Nathaniel, reach for his.

Payatas tragedy

I hope that Nathaniel will be one of many residents of Payatas who will have a chance at a better life.

To me, Payatas holds a special meaning. As a neophyte TV reporter, I covered the Payatas tragedy on July 10, 2000.

More than 300 people were buried alive when a mountain of garbage collapsed in Payatas on that day. A decade has passed but no one has been made responsible and punished for what happened.

At first, I was uneasy about covering the tragedy having been with the GMA News and Public Affairs for only four months.

I produced a 20-minute documentary: “Payatas, The Promised Land." It chronicled the grief and anxiety of the informal settlers in Payatas.

The documentary was included in the Zanzivar Film Festival in South Africa. I received emails from people sympathizing with the plight of the Payatas victims.

Later, at the Hawaii International Film Festival (November 2001), it became one of the top 15 finalists from over 800 entries worldwide.

I went to Hawaii to represent GMA Network and to speak about the documentary. The theater was packed with people of different nationalities - Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Americans and Filipino-Americans.

Some shed tears as they saw dead children being extricated from the landslide. Others raised disturbing questions. What is happening to the Philippines? Why do children live in such a filthy environment? Why must they suffer this fate?

I spoke about poverty, lack of government services, and natural calamities. After my talk, some Filipino-Americans promised to help the Payatas victims.

Four months later, 20 balikbayan boxes full of clothes, canned goods, and toys were delivered to the GMA compound for the Payatas residents.

Living in a dumpsite is certainly not easy. It is my hope that people like Nathaniel and Cecilia can rise from poverty and live the life that they deserve.

Greenpeace ship to dock in GenSan vs coal plant

The famous Rainbow Warrior of Greenpeace International will give its all out support to the fight of fishing communities in Maasim, Sarangani against plans to build a coal-fired power plant in the town.

Rainbow Warrior will dock at the General Santos City Makar Wharf on Friday, which will also mark its final sail for the Southeast Asia Turn the Tide Tour.
The boat’s stop in the Philippines, its fourth trip to the country but first to Mindanao, will also be its last trip before it retires—21 years after it sailed around the world.

It will leave Mindanao on Nov. 22.

Coal’s dirt

Lea Guerrero, regional communication manager of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the Rainbow Warrior’s mission in Mindanao is to give its support to the fight of communities and various groups against the establishment of a coal plant in Maasim.

“We are in solidarity with the fishing communities of Maasim and other groups who are strongly opposing the coal plant,” said Guerrero.

“Coal plant is not the answer to the crisis of power being faced by Mindanao today. It will never be an answer to the crisis but it will even worsen the problem,” Guerrero said.

The Rainbow Warior has toured the world campaigning against whaling, war, coal plants, climate change and other forms of environmentally-destructive development.

Southeast Asia mission

The Turn the Tide tour marks the 10 years of Greenpeace International’s work in Southeast Asia.

“The Rainbow Warrior is on a mission in Southeast Asia to demonstrate and promote right solutions and expose and confront wrong practices in global efforts to tackle climate change,” a paper of Greenpeace said.

Guerrero said that for the Maasim campaign, Greenpeace is working closely with other groups, including the Catholic Church in Sarangani and South Cotabato, and their allied groups, who are protesting the 200-megawatt coal plant set to be put up in Sitio Tampuan, Barangay Kamanga in Maasim.

Groups opposing the proposed coal plant is led by the Maasim Peoples Coalition on Climate Change, including the Archdiocese of Koronadal and the environmental group Legal Rights and Natural Resources (LRC), a Philippine member of the international federation Friends of the Earth (FoE).

‘Act of the demon’

Earlier, Pastor Roel Ubatay, a minister of a small B’laan community, said the “construction of the coal-fired power plant is an act of the demon and never will it follow the will of God to make the people live in the fullness of His creation.”

Mariano Panugas, a fisherman, also said he was worried that the project will destroy the fishermen’s source of livelihood.

“It can never be true that we will enjoy the same resources from the seas after the construction of the coal fired power plant. Fish will die or will go farther where our small boats can’t go,” he said.

Guerrero said the waters of Sarangani and their natural resources will be destroyed by the coal-fired plant once it is built and starts to operate.

Mercury laden

“There is no such thing as a green coal. While nitrous oxide can be eliminated, the mercury in the coal can never be eliminated as there is no technology yet designed for that. Ultimately, the coal plant will only cause the death of the earth,” she said.

What is being advocated by Greenpeace International is the use of renewable energy which can be tapped from the development of wind and solar farms—sources of energies that can be brought to communities without bringing destruction to the environment and harm to the health of the people.

She, too, countered the claim that coal is the most viable and cheapest source of energy.

“That is not true. It is cheap because it gets subsidy from the government. But we know for a fact that the equation doesn’t include the destruction it causes to the environment and the health of the people,” she said.

Iwas-PapuToxic Ngayon Na!

Isa ang patay, lima ang sugatan sa naganap na pagsabog noong Lunes, Nobyembre 15, sa isang pabrika ng paputok sa Angat, Bulacan na tila hudyat sa mga mangyayari pang kapinsalaan at karahasan kakabit ng maingay, mausok at madugong pagsalubong sa Bagong Taon.

Sa tala ng Kagawaran ng Kalusugan (DOH), 990 ang nagtamo ng sugat dahil sa paputok at 45 dahil sa ligaw na bala noong 2009. Ang mga biktima ay may edad na dalawang buwan hanggang 78 taon. Ang pinakamaraming kaso (288) ay edad 1-10 o mga maliliit na bata. Karamihan sa mga biktima o 79% ay mga kalalakihan.

Mayorya o 57% sa mga biktima ay direktang gumamit ng paputok.

Dalawa naman noong 2009 ang naiulat na namatay dahil sa paputok. Ang isa ay dahil sa matinding pinsala
sa mata mula sa kwitis, at ang isa naman ay dahil sa pinsala sa utak mula sa jumbo kwiton.

Ang limang pangunahing paputok na nagdulot ng pinsala noong 2009, ayon pa rin sa DOH, ay ang piccolo (30%), kwitis (14%), luces (7%), five star (6%) at pla-pla (5%).

Bunsod ng mga madugong datos na ito ay maagang nagbabala ang DOH sa publiko kontra pagpapaputok, laluna sa hanay ng mga bata, upang maiwasan ang tiyak na panganib sa katawan at kalusugan.

Kaagad na nagpahayag ng suporta sa maagang pangangalampag ng DOH laban sa paputok ang EcoWaste Coalition na naglulunsad ng kampanyang “Iwas-PapuToxic” tuwing Disyembre simula pa noong 2006, kasama ang libu-libong mag-aaral sa Krus na Ligas Elementary School, QC (2006), Esteban Abada Elementary School, QC (2007), Claret School (2008) at Marcelo H. del Pilar Elementary School, QC (2009).

Nakatuwang rin ng EcoWaste Coalition ang Miss Earth Foundation, Ministry of Ecology of the Our Lady of Remedies Parish in Malate at Philippine Animal Welfare Society sa pagpapa-abot at paghikayat sa mamamayan na itaguyod ang “Iwas-PapuToxic.”

“We are keen to collaborate with the DOH in achieving our shared purpose of minimizing, if not eliminating, the risks and hazards posed by firecrackers to life, limb and property, and to the ecosystems as a whole,” wika ni Roy Alvarez, Pangulo ng EcoWaste Coalition.

Upang mapalakas at mapalapad pa ang kampanya kontra paputok ay iminungkahi ng EcoWaste Coalition kay Secretary Enrique Ona ang mga sumusunod:

1. Isama ang isyu ng kalikasan sa kampanya ng DOH. Bigyang diin rin na ang usok, basura at ingay mula sa pagpapaputok ay mapanganib sa kalusugan ng tao, hayop at buong ekosistema.

2. Maglabas ng health advisory tungkol sa ingay mula sa pagpapaputok na isang uri rin ng polusyon na may masamang epekto sa pandinig ng tao at hayop.

3. Ipatupad ang pagbabawal sa pag-angkat ng mga paputok ayon sa itinakda ng Republic Act 7183.

4. Maglabas ng “black list” ng mga ipinagbabawal na paputok, kasama ang atomic big triangulo, super lolo at mga kahawig na malalakas na paputok, five star, kwitis, luces, pla-pla, piccolo, watusi, PVC bazooka at iba pa.

5. Italaga bilang “silence zone” o lugar na bawal ang anumang pagpapaputok sa paligid ng mga simbahan, paaralan, ospital, palengke at zoo.

Iminungkahi rin ng EcoWaste Coalition na patampukin ng DOH sa pangangampanya nito ang tagumpay ng Davao City at iba pang lugar na nagpapatupad ng firecracker ban sa kani-kanilang lugar.

Upang higit na maiparating sa madla ang mensahe ay hinimok rin ng grupo ang DOH na hikayatin at palahukin ang iba’t ibang ahensya at sektor, kasama ang mga personalidad sa radyo, telebisyon, pelikula at palakasan, sa naturang kampanya.

Para sa malusog at ligtas na pagharap sa 2011, mag-“Iwas-PapuToxic” na!

Iwas-PapuToxic Ngayon Na!

Isa ang patay, lima ang sugatan sa naganap na pagsabog noong Lunes, Nobyembre 15, sa isang pabrika ng paputok sa Angat, Bulacan na tila hudyat sa mga mangyayari pang kapinsalaan at karahasan kakabit ng maingay, mausok at madugong pagsalubong sa Bagong Taon.

Sa tala ng Kagawaran ng Kalusugan (DOH), 990 ang nagtamo ng sugat dahil sa paputok at 45 dahil sa ligaw na bala noong 2009. Ang mga biktima ay may edad na dalawang buwan hanggang 78 taon. Ang pinakamaraming kaso (288) ay edad 1-10 o mga maliliit na bata. Karamihan sa mga biktima o 79% ay mga kalalakihan.

Mayorya o 57% sa mga biktima ay direktang gumamit ng paputok.

Dalawa naman noong 2009 ang naiulat na namatay dahil sa paputok. Ang isa ay dahil sa matinding pinsala
sa mata mula sa kwitis, at ang isa naman ay dahil sa pinsala sa utak mula sa jumbo kwiton.

Ang limang pangunahing paputok na nagdulot ng pinsala noong 2009, ayon pa rin sa DOH, ay ang piccolo (30%), kwitis (14%), luces (7%), five star (6%) at pla-pla (5%).

Bunsod ng mga madugong datos na ito ay maagang nagbabala ang DOH sa publiko kontra pagpapaputok, laluna sa hanay ng mga bata, upang maiwasan ang tiyak na panganib sa katawan at kalusugan.

Kaagad na nagpahayag ng suporta sa maagang pangangalampag ng DOH laban sa paputok ang EcoWaste Coalition na naglulunsad ng kampanyang “Iwas-PapuToxic” tuwing Disyembre simula pa noong 2006, kasama ang libu-libong mag-aaral sa Krus na Ligas Elementary School, QC (2006), Esteban Abada Elementary School, QC (2007), Claret School (2008) at Marcelo H. del Pilar Elementary School, QC (2009).

Nakatuwang rin ng EcoWaste Coalition ang Miss Earth Foundation, Ministry of Ecology of the Our Lady of Remedies Parish in Malate at Philippine Animal Welfare Society sa pagpapa-abot at paghikayat sa mamamayan na itaguyod ang “Iwas-PapuToxic.”

“We are keen to collaborate with the DOH in achieving our shared purpose of minimizing, if not eliminating, the risks and hazards posed by firecrackers to life, limb and property, and to the ecosystems as a whole,” wika ni Roy Alvarez, Pangulo ng EcoWaste Coalition.

Upang mapalakas at mapalapad pa ang kampanya kontra paputok ay iminungkahi ng EcoWaste Coalition kay Secretary Enrique Ona ang mga sumusunod:

1. Isama ang isyu ng kalikasan sa kampanya ng DOH. Bigyang diin rin na ang usok, basura at ingay mula sa pagpapaputok ay mapanganib sa kalusugan ng tao, hayop at buong ekosistema.

2. Maglabas ng health advisory tungkol sa ingay mula sa pagpapaputok na isang uri rin ng polusyon na may masamang epekto sa pandinig ng tao at hayop.

3. Ipatupad ang pagbabawal sa pag-angkat ng mga paputok ayon sa itinakda ng Republic Act 7183.

4. Maglabas ng “black list” ng mga ipinagbabawal na paputok, kasama ang atomic big triangulo, super lolo at mga kahawig na malalakas na paputok, five star, kwitis, luces, pla-pla, piccolo, watusi, PVC bazooka at iba pa.

5. Italaga bilang “silence zone” o lugar na bawal ang anumang pagpapaputok sa paligid ng mga simbahan, paaralan, ospital, palengke at zoo.

Iminungkahi rin ng EcoWaste Coalition na patampukin ng DOH sa pangangampanya nito ang tagumpay ng Davao City at iba pang lugar na nagpapatupad ng firecracker ban sa kani-kanilang lugar.

Upang higit na maiparating sa madla ang mensahe ay hinimok rin ng grupo ang DOH na hikayatin at palahukin ang iba’t ibang ahensya at sektor, kasama ang mga personalidad sa radyo, telebisyon, pelikula at palakasan, sa naturang kampanya.

Para sa malusog at ligtas na pagharap sa 2011, mag-“Iwas-PapuToxic” na!

'Campaign vs cigarette butt littering is sheer hypocrisy'

Two citizens' groups called as 'sheer hypocrisy' a drive against cigarette butt littering launched by a cigarette maker, Philip Morris, last Friday.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines (FCAP) and the EcoWaste Coalition said the said campaign to distribute cigarette butt receptacles is "below the line advertising gimmick" offering a false solution to the toxic by-product of smoking.

In a statement, they also called the campaign as "a form of deceptive advertising disguised as community service or corporate social responsibility action."

Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. Inc. launched last Friday a campaign against cigarette butt littering. Receptacles for cigarette butts will be given to local government units "to proactively address the issues caused by cigarette butt litter."

The Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 bans tobacco firms from advertising in "paid" or "above-the-line" media—television, radio, and newspapers—but not in “below-the-line,” which includes social or community work.

'Superficial and disproportionate'

“It is sheer hypocrisy on their part to tackle cigarette butt littering, but continue manufacturing tobacco products that have been causing diseases and deaths to millions of Filipinos,” said Dr. Maricar Limpin, Executive Director of FCAP.

“The provision of cigarette butt receptacles offers a very superficial and disproportionate approach to the severe health and environmental impacts of tobacco addiction. It misleadingly promotes the notion that it is perfectly alright for the people to smoke as long as they properly throw the butts," added Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, Secretary of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The two groups also reminded the government and LGUs that participating in the campaign is a violation of Joint Memorandum (MC) Circular 2010-01 of the Department of Health and the Civil Service Commission which seeks to protect the bureaucracy from tobacco industry interference.

They also said the campaign "will sow confusion on the government’s implementation of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that seeks to protect the people from second-hand smoke and help smokers get rid of smoking addiction".

Cigarette butts as no. 2 pollutant

Senator Loren Legarda, on the other hand, called on smokers to dispose cigarette butts responsibly, citing the fact that cigarette butts are the 2nd highest pollutant in the country, according to the Deparment of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

"Smokers should be more responsible when they dispose their used cigarette butts. Smoking alone, with the various chemicals in cigarettes, pollute the air. Now even cigarette butts are major pollutants because they are just being thrown anywhere," Legarda said.

She urged everyone, not only smokers, to throw their litter in waste baskets, and for the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to strictly implement the Anti-Littering Law.

Legarda also noted that cigarette butts take up to about 15 years to break down, according to the Eco-Waste Coalition. Some 4,000 chemicals are released in the process, which can harm ecosystems.

Call for Pnoy to quit smoking

Last May, FCAP asked President Benigno Aquino III to be the poster boy for the government's anti-smoking campaign.

It said Aquino can "make a difference and uphold public health" if he can show the public that he can kick his nicotine habit.

Aquino, however, replied by saying he is not yet ready to stop smoking.

Health, environmental groups blast tobacco industry's campaign vs. cigarette butts

Two major citizens’ coalitions dismissed an industry-led drive against cigarette butt littering as “below the line advertising gimmick” that offers false solution to the toxic by-product of smoking.

Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines (FCAP) and EcoWaste Coalition slammed a move by the tobacco industry to distribute cigarette butt receptacles as a form of deceptive advertising disguised as community service or corporate social responsibility action.

Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp., Inc. (PMFTC), maker of Philip Morris and Marlboro, launched last Friday a campaign that will provide cigarette butt receptacles to local government units (LGUs) “to proactively address the issues caused by cigarette butt litter.”

“It is sheer hypocrisy on their part to tackle cigarette butt littering but continue manufacturing tobacco products that have been causing diseases and deaths to millions of Filipinos,” said Dr. Maricar Limpin, Executive Director of FCAP, adding that "this campaign is akin to providing receptacles to used suicide implements" as she cautioned LGUs not to fall into the advertising trap.

“The provision of cigarette butt receptacles offers a very superficial and disproportionate approach to the severe health and environmental impacts of tobacco addiction. It misleadingly promotes the notion that it is perfectly alright for the people to smoke as long as they properly throw the butts," said Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, Secretary of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The PMFTC campaign will sow confusion on the government’s implementation of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that seeks to protect people from second-hand smoke and help smokers get rid of smoking addiction, the groups insisted.

Distributing cigarette butt receptacles will confound the purpose of LGUs who have agreed to declare their cities and municipalities smoke-free, they stated.

“The government agencies and LGUs that will participate in this gimmick of the PMFTC need to be forewarned that they will be inviting violation of the Joint Memorandum Circular 2010-01 of the Department of Health and the Civil Service Commission,” Limpin emphasized.

Joint MC 2010-01 seeks to protect the bureaucracy from tobacco industry interference in accordance with the FCTC Article 5.3.

As defined in the said Joint MC, “tobacco industry interference refers to the broad array of tactics and strategies used by the tobacco industry to interfere with the setting and implementing of tobacco control measures.”

The Joint MC prohibits public officials and employees from soliciting or accepting, directly or indirectly, any gifts, donations and sponsorships from the tobacco industry.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

EcoWaste calls for affordable eco-friendly bags

BEGINNING today and every Wednesday thereafter, more malls and
supermarkets will observe "Reusable Bag Day" by not providing free
plastic bags for their customers’ purchases or charging them a fee for
preferring plastic bags.

The "Reusable Bag Day Campaign" was launched last month by the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources in partnership with
the National Solid Waste Management Commission, Earth Day Philippines
Network, and the retail industry under the Philippine Amalgamated
Supermarkets Association, Philippine Retailers Association and some
other participating stores.

Some of the bigger outlets like the Ayala Malls, Ever Malls, Hi-Top
Supermarket, Isetann Malls, Makro, Robinson’s Supermart, Savemore, and
SM Hypermart have been implementing this for some time now despite
initial resistance from customers.

The campaign calls for concerted efforts to shift public consciousness
from using plastic bags to reusable bags to address the environmental
hazard posed by improper disposal of plastic bags.

The environmental group EcoWaste Coalition, however, appealed to
participating retailers to bring down the price of their eco-friendly
bags for the benefit of consumers on tight budgets. The group said the
current price of reusable bags which range from P25 to P295 each will
not attract ordinary consumers who might want an alternative to
plastic bags but cannot afford the reusable bags’ price.

"Budget-conscious consumers, even if they appreciate the ecological
benefits of reusable bags, are put off buying anything expensive,"
said Sonia Mendoza of the EcoWaste’s Task Force on Plastics.

EcoWaste said Hi-Top’s reusable bags are P25 each; SM, P35 each;
National Book Store, P65; Healthy Options, P75; Robinson’s, P90;
Shopwise/Rustan, P99.50 for canvas and P60 for waterproof bags; and
Body Shop, P295 each.

"We definitely welcome the initiative of these market leaders to
introduce eco-friendly bags and we hope that more supermarkets and
stores will join the green bandwagon," Mendoza said. "Any scheme that
will allow consumers to get their reusable bags for free or at a
discounted or subsidized price will hopefully bring about increased
preference and demand for reusable bags,"

Mendoza suggested the promotion of home-based, job-generating industry
in the provinces, with support from the private and public sectors,
that can flood the market with more affordable and durable
eco-friendly bags made from non-plastic, cloth-based, and
locally-sourced materials, knowing that plastic reusable bags will
soon disintegrate and pose disposal problems.

Ecowaste advised retailers to encourage their customers to make and
bring their own reusable bags by providing financial and non-financial
rewards such as discount, rebate, movie or museum pass for
earth-friendly buyers.

Gloria Estenzo-Ramos of the Philippine Earth Justice Center advised
consumers to make a "financial sacrifice" and spend money for reusable
bags – if they are not able to make their own – for the sake of the
environment. She pointed out that Chapter IV of RA 9003 provides for
various incentives to encourage and support local government units,
business enterprises, non-government organizations and other entities
to actively implement ecological solid waste management, including
waste prevention, reduction, reuse and recycling activities.

Never too late to learn about phthalates

It’s in the food you eat; the pencil eraser your child may be chewing
on; the wallpaper, furniture, flooring in your house; the hair spray,
nail polish, deodorant, perfume you put on; in your children’s toys
and, if you have one, in your sex toy, too. We’re referring to the
much-talked-about phthalates, which not everybody knows a lot about.
Well, when it comes to phthalates, it’s never too late to learn.

Fact is, a Reuters report recently dished out some facts about
phthalates. According to the report, the global chemicals industry
produces nearly six million tons of phthalates every year. Phthalates
(a family of industrial chemicals used as plastic softeners or
solvents in many consumer products) are suspected to be the culprits
behind “the massive drop in male fertility globally over the past
decades.” In the developing world, for instance, studies repeatedly
show sperm counts have decreased by about 50 percent in the past half
century. Phthalates have been believed to interfere with the sexual
development of boys in the womb.

Phthalates can damage the lungs, kidneys, and liver.

The report points a finger at food as the main source of phthalates
via plastics used in the food processing machinery. A conglomerate of
environmental groups has zeroed in on the dangerous chemicals that are
present in everyday consumer products that we use from erasers to
adhesives, raincoats to shower curtains, hair spray to perfume,
deodorant to nail polish (and many other beauty products), children’s
toys to sex toys.

Sex toys? According to the Reuters report, a Berlin lab tested samples
from the shaft of a smooth blue vibrator and found it had 55 percent
DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate) by weight while another called Prince
Charming had 63 percent (how’s that for a deadly Prince Charming?).

While there’s no law covering objects such as pencil cases and
erasers, environmentalists believe that consumers should be given full
information on the chemical properties of the products that they buy.

Now, I’ll buy that.

Garbage piles up at Metro Manila cemeteries, surrounding streets

As in past years, the observance of All Souls’ Day ended on a messy
note as visitors to major Metro Manila cemeteries left behind not only
prayers for their dearly departed, but also tons of garbage.

However, repeated nagging by environmental groups appeared to have an
effect as the garbage this year was lesser than last year’s, according
to reports on dzBB radio on Tuesday.

It also said security remained tight at the cemeteries for visitors
who still wish to visit the tombs of their departed loved ones.

In Manila’s North Cemetery, dzBB’s Carlo Mateo reported at least eight
garbage trucks had to be brought in to haul the trash left behind by
visitors who spent All Souls’ Day there Monday.

The garbage trail extended all the way to streets near the cemetery
including Blumentritt Street and Aurora Boulevard, the report said.

Rains since Monday night made matters worse, adding mud to the garbage
trail inside and outside the North Cemetery, the biggest in the city.

However, cleaning crews said the garbage left behind this year was
“less" compared with that in last year, but they did not elaborate.

Joining the cleaning crew from the city government were members of
environmental group EcoWaste Coalition, some of whom wore “zombasura"
masks.

EcoWaste had called on visitors to cemeteries last week to shun the
“zombasura" image. “Zombasura" a combination of zombies and basura
(garbage) was a term used to denote those who mindlessly throw their
garbage anywhere while inside cemeteries.

At the Manila South Cemetery, meanwhile, dzBB’s Roland Bola reported
garbage was similarly left behind, but cleaned up as of 7 a.m., with
trash gathered and packed into plastic bags.

Most of the garbage included plastic wrappers and bags.

Tight security

Security remained tight at the cemeteries even though the government
had declared Tuesday a regular working day.

Police kept watch against possible violence similar to the fatal
stabbing of a 17-year-old boy in what police believe to be a gang war
Sunday night.

On Monday night, dzBB’s Sam Nielsen reported at least three people
were injured in violent incidents in cemeteries in eastern Metro
Manila.

At Heavens Gate in Antipolo, an unidentified man stabbed a certain
Teddy Santos, 17, while a drunk man stabbed one Gringo Julian, 21.

At the Loyola Memorial Park, five unidentified men assaulted a certain
John Paul Magpayos, 16, who was rushed to the Amang Rodriguez Memorial
Medical Center.

Rains to continue

Meanwhile, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical
Services Administration (PAGASA) said an Intertropical Convergence
Zone (ITCZ) affecting Central and southern Luzon, the Visayas and
Mindanao and a tail-end of a cold front affecting northern Luzon will
bring rains to these areas.

“The whole country will experience mostly cloudy skies with scattered
rainshowers and thunderstorms becoming widespread rains over the
eastern sections of Central and Southern Luzon," it said in its 5 a.m.
bulletin.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast will prevail over
Luzon and coming from the southeast and east over Eastern Visayas and
the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough.

Light to moderate winds coming from the southeast to east will prevail
over the rest of the country with slight to moderate seas.

Strong to gale force wind is expected to affect the seaboards of
Luzon, prompting PAGASA to urge fishing boats and small seacraft to
avoid going out to sea, and bigger craft to watch out for big waves.