Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Miriam launches crusade vs. toxic substances

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, author of Republic Act No. 9729 or the Climate Change Act, has filed proposed Senate Resolution No. 376, which calls for a robust and coherent national policy framework, strategy, and program for chemicals in order to reduce, if not totally eradicate, the adverse health, environmental, and social impacts of toxic chemicals to humans and the ecosystems.

Santiago sought stricter measures against toxic chemicals and substances after civil society groups such as the EcoWaste Coalition, Ban Toxics, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, and Health Care Without Harm, called for the need to implement the policy framework of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), which was since adopted by the international community on February 6, 2006.

“It is our shared responsibility to respect and ensure the right of every Filipino of this generation and those yet to be born, to live, learn, and work in a healthy, safe, and toxic-free environment. We therefore need a strong framework legislation to ensure coherence and synergy in our government’s approach on matters involving the health and safety of our people, especially the vulnerable groups, from toxic chemicals,” Santiago said.

According to Santiago, those most vulnerable to risks from toxic substances include the children, women of child-bearing age, the elderly, farmers, workers, waste pickers and the poor.

“It is imperative that the legislature implement strong policies that will prioritize pollution prevention and environmental justice, in order to respond to some of the most pressing chemical safety issues today,” the senator added.

These “most pressing” concerns include the need for measures to eliminate lead in paints, prohibit phthalates and other chemicals of concern in toys, school supplies and children’s articles, prevent and control mercury pollution from human activities, ensure the environmentally-sound management of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste), and curb dependency on pesticides in agriculture.

Citing information from the United Nations Environment Programme website, Santiago said that SAICM seeks “the achievement of the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment.”

The said “2020 goal” towards chemical safety was previously agreed upon by governments at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.

In addition to framework legislation, Santiago also pushed for expanding public information and education on chemicals and chemical safety issues and observance of February 6, SAICM’s anniversary, as “Toxic Awareness and Action Day.”


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