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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Workers sue Muntinlupa mayor over city ban on plastic bags, styro products

WORKERS in plastic manufacturing industry filed criminal and administrative charges against Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro on Wednesday in connection with his “oppressive implementation” of total plastic ban in the city.

Accompanied by counsel Raymund Palad at the Ombudsman, Alan Malapitan, a leader of a workers group, told the Manila Standard that the local government’s ban on plastic bags threatens more than 5,000 workers.

“The problem in Muntinlupa is discipline in the disposal of garbage and to put a shortcut the city government ordered for a total ban without even looking into the possible effect of the ordinance,” he said.

Malapitan said displacement should not be the answer as the Philippine Plastic Industry Association recently came up with a technology wherein oxo-biodegradable additive is added to plastic components to make them degradable within two to four months.

Malapitan stressed that while the city ordinance bans the use of plastic bags and styropor and styrofoam products, no such ban can be found in Republic Act 9003 or the Solid Waste Management Act.

“The laborers are also seeking the manufacturers’ group to act in order to protect the workers’ security,” he said. Of the 175,000 workers in plastic manufacturing firms nationwide, those working in Metro Manila, mostly in Valenzuela and Caloocan cities, are the most affected.

Palad, meanwhile, said they received information that after the ban on plastic bags was ordered in Muntinlupa City, a person related to San Pedro reportedly started supplying paper bags as replacements.

“How can they say that the cost of the replacement like paper bags will not be an added expense to the consumers?” the lawyer said.

Palad also said Marikina City, which was greatly affected by typhoon Ondoy, suspended a city ordinance banning the use of plastic bags in public markets after it learned of the effect in the labor workforce.

Recently, the PPIA sought the Muntinlupa city government’s reconsideration for the implementation of a total ban which took place last January 18.

Paje appeals to parents to teach children on proper waste segregation

With almost all kids now on summer vacation, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje is urging parents to make an effort of teaching their children on proper waste segregation.

“Throughout the year, our children get educated by teachers. This summer vacation, I urge parents to take over and teach their children household chores, including the proper way of segregating household garbage,” Paje said.

“In fact, parents or the older children could come up with creative ways to make waste segregation fun and even income-generating by selling collected empty bottles and old newspapers and magazines to the neighborhood junk shop,” Paje added.

Paje made the appeal as the agency begins its heightened campaign against the mounting garbage problem in Metro Manila by intensifying its information and education campaign with the distribution of easy-to-understand campaign materials in barangays in Metro Manila. “As the family is the most basic unit of the society, it is but a must for proper ecological solid waste management to start at the households,” said Paje.

The DENR recently launched a number of information materials on solid waste management at the Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria in Mandaluyong City, where Metro Manila’s local environment officers pledged to farm out the materials to households, in coordination with barangay officials.

During the launch, some 5,000 copies of “Ecological Solid Waste Management for Households,” “Makakalikasang Pamamaraan ng Pamamahala sa Basura,” “Bawasan Ang Basurang Itatapon: Magsegregate,” “Solid Waste Management Made Easy," and “Proper Segregation of Solid Waste,” were distributed to the participants, including the 12-page “Basura Monster” coloring book written by TV news personality Christine Bersola-Babao.

“We hope that we could even more effectively manage our wastes at home as we have made the information materials easy to understand as our primary goal is to make solid waste management understandable to all, even by little children,” Paje stressed.

Paje also called upon local executives to reproduce the materials as a step to widen and speed up the circulation of the printed materials within their respective constituencies. The move came at the heels of studies made by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) showing that Metro Manila’s daily waste generation (DWG) has risen to 8,746 tons from 8,400 tons in 2010.

“With almost a 24-percent share in the national daily waste generation of 35,000 tons in 2010, getting 15.5 million residents of Metro Manila to segregate their waste ‘at source’ or at household level will definitely have a cascading impact on the overall effort in transforming our people into a nation of into environmentally-proactive, environmentally-concerned citizens of the land,” Paje stressed.

This point was supported by MMDA General Manager Corazon Jimenez who said that the DENR’s intensified campaign for mandatory segregation shores up MMDA’s efforts to bring down Metro Manila’s daily waste generation by 50 percent.

Group pushes picture warnings for workplace chemical safety

An environmental group made a pitch on Thursday for the use of internationally-recognized pictograms to protect workers from dangerous chemicals in the workplace.

EcoWaste Coalition made the call to use United Nations-prescribed chemical hazard symbols, on the eve of the “World Day for Safety and Health at Work."

“Familiarizing ourselves with chemical classification and labelling standards is essential in empowering workers to know what types of chemical they handle, the dangers involved in handling such substances and the precautionary steps that should be observed," said Aileen Lucero, the group's chemical safety campaigner.

“The pictograms, in particular, are useful tools that provide workers with visual information and warning on hazardous chemicals that can endanger their health," she added.

EcoWaste particularly pushed nine pictograms as prescribed under the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.

The nine GHS pictograms visually convey the hazardous properties and hazard severity of a chemical, such as:
# Corrosive
# Explosive
# Flammable
# Acutely toxic
# Acutely aquatic toxic
# Carinogenic
# Irritant
# Gas under pressure
# Oxidizer

Pictograms can be downloaded from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's website on GHS.

Meanwhile, Lucero noted the ongoing effort of the Philippine government to implement the GHS locally.

She cited the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) issued on May 25, 2009 to adopt and implement the GHS in the country by eight government departments, including the Departments of:
# Agriculture;
# Environment and Natural Resources;
# Finance;
# Health;
# Interior and Local Government;
# Labor and Employment;
# Transportation and Communications, and
# Trade and Industry.

GHS is a system for standardizing the classification and labelling of chemicals. The system:
# defines the health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals;
# creates classification processes that use available data on chemicals for comparison with the defined hazard criteria; and
# communicates hazard information, as well as protective measures, on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

“We hope that the Implementing Rules and Regulations will be completed soon so our country, especially our workers, can benefit from the GHS chemical classification and hazard information and communication system," Lucero said.

No more plastic bags in 5 barangays on Wednesdays

Five barangays in 2 Metro Manila cities have committed to cut garbage by declaring all Wednesdays as "Plastic Bag-Free Day."

In celebration of Earth Day on Sunday, officials of Barangay Hulong Duhat, Flores, Bayan-Bayanan and Dampalit of Malabon City and Barangay Tanza of Navotas City signed a "Pledge of Commitment" which discourages the use of plastic bags in their areas every Wednesday.

They also gave away native baskets to promote the use of environment-friendly shopping bags.

"By encouraging our constituents to shift away from using plastic bags to using bayong and other reusable bags and containers, we can reduce the volume of our waste and help prevent plastic pollution in the CaMaNa area," Caloocan City Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. said in a statement. CaMaNa refers to the area covered by the cities of Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas.

"I invite other barangays in the country to implement their own plastic-bag-free days. This is our share for the healing of our ailing planet," he added.

Retail companies across the country earlier pledged to charge customers whenever they use plastic bags while grocery shopping every Wednesday.

Muntinlupa, another city in Metro Manila, has already prohibited the use of plastic bags and styrofoam in all of its commercial establishments.

Just recently, Senator Loren Legarda proposed a total ban on the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags throughout the country to move away from wasteful habits and prevent environmental problems.

All these have caused plastic bag makers to express concern about a possible dip in sales this year.

Hazardous waste on your living room floor

Carpet pads commonly sold to consumers in the USA and other developed countries contain dangerous chemicals that can cause nervous system damage, particularly in infants and toddlers.

(Geneva, Switzerland) In the first publicly available study of its kind, a type of foam carpet pad commonly sold in the USA and other developed countries was demonstrated to contain levels of flame retardant chemicals that raise concerns about human health. The substances, PentaBDE and OctaBDE, resemble PCBs in structure and toxic effects.

The study, conducted by IPEN, an international organization working on toxic chemical issues, examined levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) in foam carpet pads commonly used in developed counties, including the United States. The types of pads most likely to contain these chemicals are multi-colored.

Two of the flame retardants, PentaBDE and OctaBDE, were recently listed by the Stockholm Convention for global elimination in more than 170 countries.

Either one or both chemicals were found in 23 of 26 (88%) samples of foam padding from Canada, Hungary, and USA. Half the samples contained components of PentaBDE at levels that exceeded the indicative hazardous waste limit under European Union regulation. For OctaBDE components, 46% of the samples exceeded the limit.

PentaBDE and OctaBDE are released into dust and pose significant hazards for infants and toddlers. People who recycle foam and lay carpet also have been found to have 10 times the amount of these chemicals in their body as other people. According to the Convention expert committee, PentaBDE is linked to reproductive toxicity, neurodevelopmental toxicity and negative effects on thyroid hormones. OctaBDE hazards include delayed neurotoxicity and immunotoxicity.

Both substances are listed in the treaty for global elimination but governments granted an exemption that permits recycling foam and plastics containing them. In the United States PCBs are banned, and there is a voluntary agreement with manufacturers to stop producing PentaBDE and OctaBDE. However, the loophole that permits recycling of materials containing these substances into new consumer products remains.

"Allowing the recycling toxic chemicals such as PentaBDE and OctaBDE into our consumer products is dangerous and threatens the integrity of the Stockholm Convention," said Dr. Olga Speranskaya, IPEN co-chair. "Our living rooms should not be a hazardous waste dump."

Governments around the world will decide whether to continue allowing the recycling of materials containing these chemicals at the 5th Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm Convention, 25 - 29 April.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Environmentalists call for Phl's active participation in Switzerland confab

Environmental groups wrote the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and asked its officials to ensure that the aim of a treaty that is to protect public health and the environment from extremely harmful chemicals will be pushed at a conference in Geneva this week.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) appealed to the Philippine delegation to a major intergovernmental assembly in Switzerland to “keep the promise” of protecting humans and the ecosystems from very dangerous chemicals.

The groups called for “strong and active” Philippine participation at the fifth Conference of Parties (COP5) of the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that will run until Friday.

POPs are very toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and other adverse health problems. They are known as “poisons without passports,” travelling vast distances via air and water, persisting in the environment for a long time and bioaccumulating in humans and animals.”

In a letter sent to the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), the groups expressed hope that the Philippines will join other countries in guaranteeing that the goal of the Stockholm Convention, also known as the POPs treaty, is “faithfully kept and advanced at COP5.”

“We appeal to our delegates to keep the promise of the POPs treaty of protecting public health and environment from these extremely harmful chemicals through their strong and active participation in the crucial meeting of parties,” said Manny Calonzo, representative of both the EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA.

Leading the government delegation to COP5 are Ambassador Evan Garcia of the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to UN in Geneva, and Renato Cruz, chief of the DENR-EMB Air Quality Division.

“We specifically urge our country to actively back the proposal to list endosulfan, a highly hazardous pesticide, in Annex A of the treaty for global elimination,” said Calonzo, who is also the Co-Hub of the International POPs Elimination Network for Southeast Asia.

“We further hope that our delegation will take the right decision to support the recommendations on the elimination of POP-BDE from waste and recycling streams,” he added. BDEs, or brominated diphenyl ethers, are chemical flame retardants targeted for eradication under the Stockholm Convention such as octabromodiphenyl ether, pentabromodiphenyl ether and hexabromodiphenyl ether.

Awards for eco-heroism slated to be given today

THE celebration of Earth Day is set to be highlighted today with this year’s Father Neri Satur Award for Environmental Heroism, which will be presided by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno and broadcast over NBN 4’s Equilibrium at 8 p.m. tonight.

Named in honor of Father Neri Satur, who was slain in 2001 for defending the forests of Bukidnon, the award was established by Earthsavers founder and former Sen. Heherson Alvarez, who now serves as a Climate Change Commissioner.

The award is organized in cooperation with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, headed by Sec. Ramon Paje; the Philippine Center of the International Theatre Institute, currently chaired by Dr. Vilma Labrador; and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization National Commission of the Philippines, led by Officer in Charge-Director Jean Tuazon in liaison with the Office of Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales of Manila.

Notable among this year’s awardees, who will receive an Abdulmari Imao trophy, are two recently departed personalities: radio commentator and environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega of Palawan and renowned botanist Leonard Co.

The rest of the honorees are Father Pete Montellana, for fighting illegal logging in the Sierra Madre; Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay province, for local government leadership in climate adaptation; the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.-SMART Foundation, for assisting with eco-communications tools, The Manila Times, for eco-education through print media coverage; the Green Water Pump of the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, for innovative technology in the delivery of water; and the Climate Institute, led by its president John Topping Jr., for heightening international awareness with practical ways to achieve a significant reduction in green house emissions.

Other past awardees include personalities like Father James B. Reuter, Father Ben Beltran, Jerry Esplanada of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Katherine Andraneda of the Philippine Star; eco-friendly businesses like Unilever, SM Malls, and GTZET; eco-entertainers-artists like the late Francis Magalona, ABS-CBN weatherman Kim Atienza, and young actor Richard Gutierrez; and eco-advocates like Arch. Jun Palafox, Dr. Metodio Palaypay, science-media editor-port Tomas Ongoco, and inventors Jun Catan and Ben Santos.

For almost a decade, a growing creative army of Mother Earth’s caring defenders has been spreading the gospel of protecting the womb of life.

The ceremony is especially significant for 2011, as messages from President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Vice President Jejomar Binay and Cardinal Rosales are featured in the observance of the Year of the Forest and the operationalization of the honor of the Philippines as the first Association of Southeast Asian Nations culture capital.

Mercury Climbing in Food Chain, New Study Shows

Levels of mercury have risen dramatically in some Pacific seabirds in the past 120 years, suggesting that industrial emissions containing the poisonous metal associated with fetal and brain damage may be climbing the food chain and endangering sensitive species, according to a new study.

While the study did not specifically address human-mercury exposure, there is rising concern among scientists that more people are consuming the heavy metal through tainted seafood, where the compound is known as methylmercury.

"It's possible that any human populations that largely depend on the same marine sources (of food) may be exposed to more methylmercury and be at risk," said study co-author Anh-Thu Vo, a doctoral student in integrative biology at UC Berkeley.

Vo's paper, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, relied on 54 samples of breast feathers from the black-footed albatross, an endangered, dusky-brown bird that feeds and nests mainly in the northern Pacific. To measure the bird's mercury concentrations historically, Vo gathered feathers dating from the 1880s to 2002 from museums at Harvard University and the University of Washington.
Through the food web

What Vo found indicates that mercury emissions from mineral mining and burning coal may be invading the birds through the food web. That is, microscopic organisms ingest mercury pollution in seawater. Those organisms are eaten by small fish, which are eaten by bigger fish, and so on, up to the seabirds. At each rung in the ladder, the mercury becomes more concentrated.

The study found mercury levels jumped in the albatross at the same time industrial production ramped up after World War II and again after 1990 when many Asian economies kicked into overdrive. Though the link between pollution and mercury accumulation merits further examination, researchers said, it suggests that modern human development is reverberating throughout the natural world and could imperil rare and dwindling species.

"We are starting to find high levels in endangered and sensitive species across marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, indicating that mercury pollution and its subsequent chemical reactions in the environment may be important factors in species population declines," said study co-author Michael Bank, a research associate at Harvard's School of Public Health.
Limiting intake

Mercury, both a commercial byproduct and a naturally occurring metal, is particularly damaging to the central nervous system and the reproductive process. For that reason, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warn that women of child-bearing age, nursing mothers and young children should completely avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish and limit their intake of tuna.

Earlier this year, a public health advocacy group found that tuna and swordfish collected from California grocery stores and sushi restaurants contained mercury levels as much as three times the threshold that authorizes federal food regulators to pull seafood from shelves.

Biologists and scientists have lobbied the federal government to lower its warning level. But representatives for the seafood industry say the current threshold has a large buffer built into it. They also maintain that seafood is a critical part of a healthy diet and has rich omega-3 fatty acids that boost brain development.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Malabon, Navotas launch ‘Plastic Bag-Free Day’

OFFICIALS of five villages in the cities of Malabon and Navotas are taking action to cut plastic garbage and promote positive environmental values among their constituents by proclaiming every Wednesday as “Plastic Bag-Free Day.”

In observance of Easter and Earth Day on Sunday, officials of Hulong Duhat, Flores, Bayan-Bayanan and Dampalit villages in Malabon City and Tanza village of Navotas City signed a declaration aimed at discouraging the use of plastic bags in their areas on Wednesdays.

The signing of the “Pledge of Commitment” was held at the Hulong Duhat Public Market, where 100 complimentary bayong (native shopping basket) donated by Mayor Canuto Oreta of Malabon City were also given free of charge to marketgoers.

Among those who took part in the Easter-Earth Day event were the members of the Diocese of Caloocan’s Ecology Ministry, the Malabon City Tennis Club and the EcoWaste Coalition.

Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez Jr. of the Diocese of Caloocan lauded the initiative of the participating villages as he encouraged other communities to follow their lead for a cleaner and greener environment.

“We welcome this action by concerned barangay (village) leaders to address our pervasive problem with waste. By encouraging our constituents to shift . . . from using plastic bags to using bayong and other reusable bags and containers, we can reduce the volume of our waste and help prevent plastic pollution in the Camana area,” said Bishop Iñiguez.

Camana refers to the area covered by Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas.
“Plastic bags are one of the major pollutants that clog our waterways. Reducing [their use] will help ease our problem with flooding, as well as prevent pollution [in our bodies of water],” the prelate said.

“It will also cut government spending for the costly cleanup of our canals and rivers. Funds saved can be used to pay for basic services for the poor,” he added.

‘Mercury vapor levels above normal in Tondo’—environmental groups

ENVIRONMENTAL groups have pushed for proper toxic waste disposal after they detected mercury vapors in Tondo, Manila.

A “toxic investigation” conducted by environmental groups Ban Toxics, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm and the EcoWaste Coalition on April 19 yielded “disturbing levels of mercury vapor in lamp waste recycling stations” at Pier 18, a garbage transfer station.

In a statement, the groups explained that they used a hand-held ambient air analyzer to obtain mercury vapor data from the area where mercury-containing compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were being destroyed before these were disposed of.

They added that they tested 14 used CFLs in two separate breaking sites. The average reading for the tested lamps was 117.20 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3) with one product registering mercury vapor of 502.40 mcg/m3.

Above permissible rates

The permissible exposure limit for mercury vapor as set by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration was 100 mcg/m3, they said.

“We need to emphasize that it is not only the lamp waste recyclers who bear the brunt of toxic pollution. The mercury vapor escapes as the glass tubing is broken and travels around, exposing the workers, their children and the environment to this toxic metal,” said EcoWaste Coalition’s Thony Dizon, chemical safety project coordinator.

They cited a government-published guidebook titled “Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste Management” in pointing out that mercury was highly toxic, especially to developing nervous systems, and that “exposure to high levels of mercury could cause permanent brain damage, central nervous system disorders, memory loss, heart disease, kidney failure, liver damage, vision loss, sensation loss and tremors.”

Handle with care

The groups reminded Filipinos that mercury-containing CFLs should be handled separately from regular waste.

“The data we collected should serve as a warning signal of toxic danger in our midst. Our investigation, we hope, would prompt government and business leaders into enforcing mercury pollution prevention measures such as a practical system for collecting lamp waste and ensuring their safe management,” Dizon said.

The toxic investigation was held to commemorate Earth Day this month and World Day for Safety and Health at Work on April 28.

Dirty pilgrims

It is often said, “cleanliness is next to godliness.” What then are we to make of so-called devotees who made a mess—literally—of their Holy Week rituals?

Over the weekend, a waste and pollution watchdog decried the littering that marred the “Alay-Lakad” penitential walk of thousands of Catholic faithful last Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, which incidentally was the 42nd Earth Day.

“We are saddened by the seemingly apathetic pilgrims who spoiled the penitential trail to Antipolo Cathedral with plastic rubbish and other garbage,” said Basura Patroller Manny Calonzo of EcoWaste Coalition.

“While we’re delighted to see families and friends walk together to fulfill their sacrificial vows, we could not help but moan about the uninspiring environmental indifference of some pilgrims as if Mother Earth does not matter,” he said.

“Littering was so extensive even though it is banned by [Republic Act] 9003 and related local environmental laws,” Calonzo added.

The long stretch of Ortigas Avenue Extension that traverses Pasig City, Cainta and Taytay, Rizal, and Antipolo City, was littered with assorted trash such as clear plastic bags for drinking water and samalamig (coolers), plastic straws, cups and bottles, chips wrappers, paper scraps, cigarette butts and food leftovers, EcoWaste Coalition noted.

The Antipolo Cathedral—home to La Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje, which some Catholics regard as a miraculous icon—was carpeted with scattered newspapers discarded by pilgrims, which kept church caretakers very busy on Earth Day.

Calonzo quoted parish personnel interviewed by the EcoWaste Coalition on Friday morning saying that 15 staff assigned to clean up the church compound were likely to consume the 150 big garbage bags set aside for the massive occasion.

Outside the church, yellow-clad “Clean and Green” personnel of the Antipolo City government swept the roads leading to the Cathedral as small trucks hauled the garbage to a disposal site.

Also, enterprising child and adult wastepickers were seen painstakingly
retrieving recyclables left behind by the pilgrims.

The garbage collected from the church and the streets of Antipolo would then be dumped at the city’s waste disposal facility located in Tanza I, Barangay San Jose, while the recyclables would be sold to junk shops.

“While disappointed with what we saw, we remain optimistic that future pilgrimages to Antipolo will treat Mother Earth more kindly. Next time, please abide by the law and don’t litter,” EcoWaste Coalition said in a press statement.

RA 9003, also known the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, lists littering, throwing and dumping of waste matters in public places as prohibited acts under the law’s penal provision.

Antipolo City, which produces 139 tons of trash daily, has enacted Ordinance 2008-287, also known as the “Basura Code,” which prohibits littering, while Ordinance 2009-370, bans plastic bags and polystyrene containers.

For next year’s “Alay-Lakad,” EcoWaste Coalition has proposed that local authorities deploy “litter-busters” all throughout Ortigas Avenue Extension and other major roads leading to Antipolo Cathedral to apprehend environmental offenders, “only then will litterbugs start to
break the dirty habit.”

Metro LGUs to receive P1M for solid waste management

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will release P1 million each to all 17 local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila to support their programs to manage solid waste.

DENR chief Ramon Paje said the support fund will be given to make sure that LGUs in the country’s capital region will comply with Republic Act (RA) 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“The DENR is ready to provide as much as P1 million to each LGU within Metro Manila to assist them in monitoring the compliance, particularly of subdivisions and condominiums, in the implementation of RA 9003," he said in a statement Sunday.

He added that he has already coordinated with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Francis Tolentino regarding the support fund.

LGUs are expected to use the fund to enhance waste segregation from households and other sources, and to utilize the help of non-government organizations (NGOs) to formulate an effective waste management system, especially in residential areas, according to Paje.

He added that the release of the fund will be covered by a memorandum of agreement between the DENR and the LGU, which will determine the subdivisions and other neighborhoods that will become beneficiaries of the fund.

“Compliance to the law is only a matter of discipline. With strict enforcement of the law, discipline will surely follow," he said.

RA 9003 mandates all LGUs to be responsible of solid waste management in their respective areas.

Based on DENR records, Metro Manila households and industries generate more than 8,700 tons of garbage a day—around 25 percent of the country’s total daily solid waste.

Gov't asked to regulate use of plastic

The government was urged Friday to regulate the use of plastic materials to minimize land-based sources of pollution and increase efforts to protect water quality.

Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. stressed this point when he cited a result of a joint survey by Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition that plastic bags and other synthetic packaging materials comprised 76 percent of the garbage retrieved from Manila Bay.

Sen. Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate climate change committee, has sought the banning of plastic materials whose uncontrolled use is creating an ecological degradation.

Senate Bill 2749 that Marcos has filed seeks to address this serious ecological malady by pressing for the use of ‘’reusable, bio-degradable bags, made of a washable material that does not contain lead or any other heavy metal in a toxic amount, and designed and manufactured for at least 100 uses, which shall be available for customers.’’

Legarda has also filed a bill banning the use of plastic bags to stop the uncontrolled degradation of the environment.

Marcos cited published reports that half of the 78 percent of the garbage retrieved from Manila Bay were plastic carry bags and about 19 percent were junk food wrappers and sachets, five percent styrofoam and one percent hard plastics.

If enacted into law, ‘’consumers are encouraged to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the use of plastic bags, thereby saving the fragile life of our environment,’’ he explained

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bacolod Plastics Ordinance Reintroduced

The proposed ordinance prohibiting the use of plastic bags and Styrofoam as containers for food that had earlier failed to get the support of the Bacolod Sangguniang Panlungsod, has been reintroduced by Bacolod Councilor Em Legaspi-Ang.

The ordinance aims to prohibit the use, sale and provision of plastic bags as packaging materials in Bacolod City, and another ordinance prohibiting the use, sale and provision of expanded polystyrene foam or Styrofoam, as containers for food and beverages.

Both proposed ordinances were approved by the SP on first reading Wednesday.

The proposed ordinance prohibiting the use, sale and provision of plastic bags as packaging materials in Bacolod City, said plastic bags, being non-biodegradable, can clog canals, creeks and other waterways causing floods during the rainy season.

It said the City of Bacolod in its desire to prohibit the use of plastic film bags as packaging materials, encourages the utilization of alternative packaging materials such as woven bags, cloth bags, paper bags, and other similar materials, and promote the “bring your own bag program”.

It provides a fine of P1,000 and confiscation of plastic bags for the first offense, P3,000 for the second offense, and P5,000 for the third offense, or imprisonment of not more than six months upon the discretion of the court, and in the case of the business establishment, cancellation of its business to operate for a year.

Meanwhile, the ordinance prohibiting the use, sale and provision of EPS foam used as containers for food and beverages in Bacolod said EPS foams takes several decades to hundreds of years to deteriorate in the landfill, and, being a non-biodegradable material, can clog the canals and other waterways.

It added that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, styrene is a suspected carcinogen and is also a suspected toxin to the gastrointestinal, kidney, and respiratory systems, among others, it added.

The ordinance also provides the same penalties as the ordinance prohibiting the use, sale and provision of plastic bags as packaging materials.

Both ordinances provide that no business establishment, fastfood outlets, market vendors, ambulant vendors and the like should utilize, sell or provide plastic bags or Styrofoam as packaging materials.

Pinoys start Holy Week with Palm Sunday Mass

Filipino Catholics started the Holy Week on Sunday with Eucharistic rites that focus on remembrance of the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem.

In many churches in Metro Manila, churchgoers waved "palaspas" (palm fronds) at the priest, as they call to mind the similar act Christ's followers did to greet him when he entered Jerusalem. Also, at certain points of the Palm Sunday Eucharistic rites, the faithful hold their palm fronds aloft as the priest sprinkles Holy Water on them.

They also recalled Christ's subsequent Passion and Death as the Gospel passages detailing these events were read during the Mass.

Priests wore scarlet to symbolize Christ's shedding of blood as his supreme sacrifice.

Sunday's activities ushered in the Holy Week, where Filipinos recall Christ's suffering and death, and his eventual Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In Quezon City, radio dzBB's Manny Vargas reported vendors were selling palm fronds from P10 to P25.

Appeal for 'green' Holy Week

Meanwhile, a Catholic bishop and an environmental group called on Filipino Catholics to observe a “green" or environmentally friendly Holy Week from April 17 to 24.

Caloocan bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. said a green Holy Week is a timely call in response to the wastefulness that threatens the environment.

"A green Holy Week is a timely call in response to the wastefulness and greed that is blatantly trashing our fragile environment. I encourage everyone to plan for an earth-friendly and spiritually-nourishing week. As stewards of God’s Creation, it is our shared responsibility to respect and preserve Mother Earth and protect her ability to support and perpetuate life," Iñiguez said.

He also pointed out this year’s “Alay Kapwa" theme is “Our Neighbor and Environment, Our Responsibility."

“Let our Christian faith radiates in the way we relate and nurture the environment," said Iñiguez, who heads the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines public affairs unit.

For its part, the EcoWaste Coalition also noted that this year's Earth Day coincides with Good Friday.

“We are inviting the faithful to celebrate the Holy Week with a pledge to cut back on garbage and pollution as part of our spiritual works of penance, charity and reconciliation. Abstaining from wasteful consumption during the holidays and beyond augurs well for both Mother Earth and the future of our climate change-threatened nation," EcoWaste president Roy Alvarez said.

He added the fact that this year's Earth Day falls on Good Friday is indeed good for the environment as this should "mean less cars on the streets, less energy use in malls, less noise, less non-essential consumption and less garbage."

"Let Good Friday be a Good Earth Day as well," he added.

Holy Week not a vacation

Holy Week should be a time for conversion and not vacation, Catholic bishops reminded Filipino Catholics over the weekend.

Batanes Bishop Camillo Gregorio lamented the habit of some Catholics to observe Holy Week by going on vacation somewhere, such as the beach in Boracay.

“It’s saddening because Holy Week has become a time for vacation for some people. They forgot that it is a time and opportunity for a deeper conversion. This is also a time where we can be one with God," he said in an interview on Church-run Radio Veritas.

Excerpts of the interview were posted Friday night on the Union of Catholic Asian News website.

But Gregorio said he is hoping that the faithful will learn the importance of silence in the observance in the coming days from Palm Sunday up to Easter Sunday.

“There is a reason why God taught us how to be silent and that is a very good lesson for all us. Let us be silent so as to deepen our faith and reflection," he said.

“That is my advice to everyone. Allow the Lord to enter you in the hours of this silence in your hearts," he added.

For his part, Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo echoed Bishop Gregorio’s appeal to the faithful.

“Holy Week is a time when we relive the passion and death of Christ which led to our salvation," he said.

“This week is not for rest and recreation, rather it’s a time for prayer and sacrifice," he added.

Spend Holy Week with charitable works

Instead of just the usual Visita Iglesia, one can spend Holy Week visiting the sick in hospitals, or doing other charitable work, a Catholic bishop suggested.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said such activities can reinforce the traditional activities like the Visita Iglesia and Stations of the Cross.

“As we keep our pious practices like the Stations of the Cross, confessions, Visita Iglesia and penitensiya, let us also consider making acts of charity to the poor as the way to share in the spirit of the Lenten season," Villegas said in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines news site.

He said doing acts of charity can be an alternative way of spending the Holy Week meaningfully.

The prelate said one may “consider visiting 14 patients in our government hospitals and meditate, as you visit them, on the sufferings of Christ."

Near them, one can see “how the sufferings of Christ continue in the midst of us," he said.

"Prayers can be inspiring and penances can be admirable but only love can redeem. Only love saves. Love alone sanctifies us," he added.

Villegas also recommended jail visitation as another way to share God’s love and mercy to those behind bars.

“We can bring them our prayers and greetings and volunteer to be couriers of their letters that they want to send to their loved ones who are unable to visit them," he said.

Villegas said one can also bring food and clothes to the poor in honor of Jesus’ humiliation at Calvary.

He recalled the late Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Philippines in 1981, when lepers from Tala Leprosarium were brought to him so he could bless them.

Yet, the Pope knelt before a leper and kissed his leprous hands and exclaimed, “My Lord!"

“Give love this Lenten season. Pour love into your prayers. Let your penance overflow into charity," Villegas stressed.


“In improving health care services, lawmakers today must also consider environmental safety,” said Merci Ferrer, Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia (HCWH-SEA) Executive Director.

This is in response to the news on 61 local bills promoting national health services approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives. Included in the approved bills are establishment of municipal hospitals, increasing bed capacity, and upgrading and modernizing hospitals.

“We welcome and laud this move by our lawmakers. Improvements in hospital services will redound to people’s health, especially so if these are for hospitals or clinics in the far-flung areas of the country where hospital services are either very limited or scarce,” said Ferrer. “But we’d like to remind our lawmakers, hospital administrators and health officials that in all these improvements, we need to make sure that the hospitals are not contributing to environmental pollution.”

The group recommends a PRIMER for providing quality health services.

Proper waste segregation – Each hospital need a dedicated waste management committee1 that will see to it that wastes are properly segregated and placed in its proper bins. “Waste segregation can help in lessening the volume of wastes produced in each hospital,” said Ferrer. “They also need to make sure that the infectious and pathological wastes are properly treated thru autoclave, microwave2 and other non-burn systems before disposal.”

Recycling program – Each hospitals should also have recycling programs for used items such as boxes, bottles and papers. Based on HCWH’s study, about 85% of the total hospital wastes are like regular household wastes that maybe recycled. Composting area on the other hand may be provided for food wastes from the kitchen. The compost may be used for plants around the hospitals or may even be sold. Recycling and composting programs can generate income for the hospitals.

In-house food production – Hospitals should consider serving food which are locally produced in the community than food from big establishments that are often laden with pesticides. These are healthier for patients and hospital workers alike. It saves cost in transporting food as well as supports livelihood of local farmers.

Mercury-free – Our hospitals should also be mercury-free. In 2008, the Department of Health (DoH) ordered the phase-out of mercury devices by September 2010. “With this Administrative Order, improved health services should now mean the use of mercury-free medical devices,” said Ferrer.

Efficient use of alternative materials which are non-toxic and environmentally friendly– “Such as using recycled papers or fabric instead of tarpaulin for event announcements in hospitals,” she added. A good example of alternative materials on the other hand is using tetrapacks as insulators instead of the regular expensive insulators. “This allows hospitals to re-use materials that would otherwise be discarded.”

Renewable and alternative energy – The group likewise is pushing for use of renewable and alternative energy generation such as solar or wind energy. This can be used for lighting, generation or pumping of water to the facilities. It is likewise wise for health care facilities to do small measures towards less and efficient use of energy by using compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or better yet Light Emitting Diodes (LED) as CFLs are mercury-containing and may be a cause of mercury pollution when not properly handled. Turning down the air conditioner during cooler days, turning off and unplugging equipments when not in use are other measures that will go a long way in saving energy usage in the hospitals. Having bigger windows so light and wind may freely enter must also be considered, as well as having plants within and outside of the hospital premises.

“These are measures that are easy to implement, all it needs is a commitment and the will to do things properly,” said Ferrer. “We hope that PRIMER will be incorporated in the improvements that the health sector wants to provide to the people.”

Editorial: Earth Day 2011

FOR the first time, the celebration of Earth Day, April 22, falls on a Good Friday. That gives this environmental event a religious tone. It’s only right, I guess. We are the stewards of the Earth. We have a responsibility to take good care of God’s creation.

“As stewards of God’s Creation, it is our shared responsibility to respect and preserve Mother Earth and protect her ability to support and perpetuate life,” said Kalookan Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr. in a statement posted in the CBCP news website.

The environmental group Ecowaste Coalition has released 12 down-to-earth suggestions for a greener observance of the death and resurrection of Christ the Redeemer. ( We edited them for brevity.

1. No littering please. Ensure that nothing is wasted nor littered as you accomplish your vows to the Most High. Remember: “Do not defile the land in which you live and in the midst of which I dwell.” (Numbers 35: 34)

2. Shun disposables. Avoid single-use items such as plastic bags, water bottles and beverage cups as you perform your Lenten plans. Be guided by this timely reminder from our bishops: “eliminate wasteful consumption” (CBCP Statement “Upholding the Sanctity of Life,” November 2008).

3. Power down. Drive less to cut fossil fuel use and slash greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming and climate change. For planned “Visita Iglesia”, consider doing your pilgrimage online at

4. Call off expensive, non-essential long distance trips and consider giving the money saved to the “Alay-Kapwa” program or to your favorite charitable causes.

5. If you are planning a family or “barkada” (circle of friends) outing to the mountain, lake or the sea, please abide by the eco-creed "take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time."

6. Say no to plastic carry bags. Cut your consumption of wasteful plastic bags by bringing your own “bayong” or reusable shopping bags.

7. Save trees. Bring your own handkerchief or towel to limit the use of disposable tissue while you battle the heat during the “Via Crucis” (stations of the cross), penitential services and liturgical celebrations.

8. Go for tobacco-free and alcohol-free “Pabasa”. Keep the “pabasa” a healthy neighborhood spiritual affair by making the “kubol” and its immediate vicinity a “no smoking, no drinking” zone.

9. Say no to Styro. Choose reusable over disposable cups, plates and cutlery for meals and drinks served to "pabasa" readers;

10. Avoid overdoing the "carrozas” for the Good Friday “Santo Entierro” procession, enhancing them only with biodegradable stuff like sampaguita and other natural flowers and plants.

11. Go for simple, eco-friendly Easter "Salubong" sans firecrackers and confetti to commemorate the heavenly encounter between the risen Christ and “Mater Dolorosa” (sorrowing mother).

12. If you are planning to do Easter egg hunt, only use natural ingredients or dyes to color the eggs. Promote a healthy and balanced diet by not giving kids junk food treats.

Coalition urges public to cut back waste

The EcoWaste Coalition called on the public to cut back on wasteful consumption as a form of penance this Lenten season and observe a “green” Holy Week.

The environmental watchdog said cutting back on garbage and pollution can also be a part of the spiritual works an individual can do during the Holy Week. Aside from being considered an act of penance, the group said it can also be an act of charity and reconciliation.

EcoWaste Coalition president Roy Alvarez said that refraining from wasteful consumption will do good for both Mother Earth and the future of our climate change-threatened nation.

Alvarez added that our Christian faith should radiate in the way we relate and nurture the environment.

Meanwhile, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez Jr. also encourages the faithful to spend the Holy Week in a spiritually nourishing and earth-friendly way.

“A green Holy Week is a timely call in response to the wastefulness and greed that is blatantly trashing our fragile environment,” he said.

Bishop Iñiguez, who also heads the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Permanent Committee on Public Affairs cited that the call for respect and care to both person and the environment is very timely considering the theme for this year’s Alay Kapwa is “Our Neighbor and Environment, Our Responsibility.”

The bishop added that as stewards of God’s creation, it is our shared responsibility to respect and preserve Mother Earth and protect her ability to support and perpetuate life.

Bishop Iñiguez further said the fact that Earth Day this year will fall on Good Friday, is indeed good for the environment as this should mean less cars on the streets, less energy use in malls, less noise, less non-essential consumption and less garbage. Let Good Friday be a Good Earth Day as well,” the bishop added.

EcoWaste Coalition appeals for "quiet" observance of Earth Day on Good Friday

An environmental watchdog has urged Christian Filipinos to quietly mark the upcoming Earth Day on April 22 with a commitment to “put to death” destructive practices not only on Good Friday, but all throughout the year.

“We need not hold any bazaar, concert, symposium, protest or parade to commemorate the Earth Day, which falls on a Good Friday,” said Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“What is needed is a quiet personal reflection about the state of Mother Earth’s health and an earnest commitment to ‘put to death’ practices that are contributing to her ailment, destruction and demise,” he pointed out.

“Practices that cause environmental degradation are acts that both disrespect and diminish the integrity of God’s creation,” he added.

Being a day of fasting, prayer, contemplation and atonement, the upcoming Good Friday offers a rare opportunity to draw attention to the frequent “crucifixion” of Mother Earth that is happening all over the country 24/7, Alvarez emphasized.

“We ‘crucify’ Mother Earth every time we recklessly exploit, consume and terminate the natural gifts of the planet without any thought about the needs of current and future generations,” he explained.

“We ‘crucify’ her whenever we misuse the planet’s finite resources and when we unashamedly defile and contaminate the ecosystems with garbage and toxic residues,” he added.

Some of the often-ignored “bad” practices that harm Mother Earth and that caring Filipinos should refrain from doing include:

-ignoring the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) in our daily lives and thus adding to the garbage woes;

- thoughtlessly using and disposing plastic bags that choke rivers and the marine environment;

- dumping cigarette butts on sidewalks and other spots that do not only worsen street and marine litter, but also cause chemical contaminants in the filter to disperse;.

- dropping litter anywhere even in the most sacred religious occasions;

- open burning trash that yields toxic byproducts of combustion such as dioxin, particulate matter and other emissions;

- insensitively driving smoke-belching vehicles that emit health-damaging carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other pollutants.

"We invite everyone to acknowledge the myriad ordeals being faced daily by Mother Earth because of our uncaring practices. We need to put such practices to death in order to attain new beginnings for our nation and planet as Christ has shown the way to resurrection through his agony and death,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Say no to toxic chemicals

We received this news from our good friend Manny Calonzo of EcoWaste Coalition. Listen up, folks!

A citizens’ forum today pressed the national government to implement health-based policies that will cause the removal of priority toxic chemicals in everyday products and their replacement with safer alternatives.

The forum, organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxic watchdog, sought drastic chemicals policy reforms amid growing concerns on the impacts of certain chemicals found in common consumer products that could affect the ability of children to develop and reach their full potentials.

Visiting US-based public health expert Dr. Peter Orris spoke on the need to protect the most vulnerable sub-populations from being exposed to the most hazardous chemicals that can cause birth defects, impair brain development, disrupt hormonal functions, and trigger other serious ailments.

Among the chemicals of concern that Dr. Orris, a professor of internal and preventive medicine particularly environmental and occupational health sciences, identified in his talk are lead, mercury, phthalates, bisphenol A, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardant chemicals), perfluorinated compounds (water, stain, and grease repellant chemicals), organochlorine pesticides, and other persistent toxic chemicals.

Roy Alvarez, president of the EcoWaste Coalition, said: “We urge the Environment Department and other agencies to come up with strong health-based regulations against known toxic chemicals, starting with the Priority Chemicals List (PCL) that the Department itself has identified as posing unreasonable risk to public health, workplace and the environment.”

The PCL is composed of 48 chemicals, out of which only five have Chemical Control Orders (i.e., polychlorinated biphenyls, mercury and mercury compounds, asbestos, cyanide and cyanide compounds, and ozone depleting substances) that set gradual phase-out plan, restrict or limit the use or require substitution of the targeted chemicals.

Eco group warns vs insecticide chalk

A GROUP promoting consumer safety from harmful chemicals has warned against the unregulated sale of “Miraculous Insecticide Chalk” in the local market.

The EcoWaste Coalition warned that the insecticide chalk, considered an “illegal pesticide product” in the USA, is sold by ambulant vendors in Quiapo and elsewhere.

“Miraculous Insecticide Chalk” is not registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the group also said.

The “made in China” insecticide chalk is commonly sold in sidewalks or public markets for only P10 per box. Each box contains a white chalk that appears like regular blackboard chalk. The chalk is used to repel and kill ants, cockroaches and other crawling insects.

“Insecticide chalk is a dangerous product that can harm humans, especially children, because of its toxic component,” warned Thony Dizon of the EcoWaste Coalition Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

Manila Bay, Pasig River informal settlers ask for SC protection

Members of the Urban Poor Associates (UPA) asked the Supreme Court to require government agencies to follow Republic Act 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 to protect not only the environment but the urban poor as well.

In a 15-page motion to issue compliance of RA 7279, the group said it should protect the housing rights of the urban poor especially those who live near Pasig River and Manila Bay.

While they said that they are not against the Manila Bay clean up, it would be better for the government to protect and preserve Manila Bay but also the right of the people who live nearby.

Early this month, the high court gave the Department of Environment and Natural Resources up to June 30 this year to submit a comprehensive plan on how to carry out its order.

The comprehensive plan would specify the duties and functions of each government agency included in the cleanup.

In 2008, the high court upheld the decisions of the Imus Cavite Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals requiring the DENR, the Manila Metropolitan Development Authority (MMDA) and 6 other government agencies to undertake specific tasks that would lead to the coordinated cleanup, restoration and preservation of Manila Bay.

The high court also gave the DENR until Sept. 30, 2011 to submit the names and addresses of persons and companies in Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, and Bataan that generate toxic and hazardous waste.

The Manila Bay clean-up decision has put to task the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to order all local government heads in Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan and Bataan to inspect all factories, commercial establishments and residences along the banks of the Pasig-Marikina-San Juan rivers, the Navotas-Malabon-Tullahan-Tenejeros rivers, the Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando (Bulacan) rivers, the Talisay (Bataan) River, the Imus (Cavite) River, the Laguna de Bay and other minor rivers and waterways that eventually discharge water into the Manila Bay.