18 August 2017

Waste Pickers Seek Inclusion in Formal Waste Management Systems

National and local authorities should acknowledge and tap the immense potentials of waste pickers and the rest of the thriving informal waste sector (IWS) in reducing the country’s garbage production estimated at 40,087 tons per day.

At a forum organized yesterday by zero waste advocacy group EcoWaste Coalition, the 60 informal recyclers in attendance drew attention to the sad plight of their often ignored sector, including the occupational health and safety hazards faced daily by the IWS, the lack of economic and social security, and the inadequate government support.

The participants from Caloocan, Malabon, Manila, Navotas, Quezon and Valenzuela Cities and Meycauayan and Obando, Bulacan hail from the different sub-groupings of the IWS such as waste pickers in dumpsites and garbage transfer stations, e-waste dismantlers, door-to-door waste collectors, and itinerant waste pickers.

“We created this opportunity for the IWS representatives from various communities to meet and find strength in each other’s experiences and aspirations,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

At the forum, the IWS representatives eagerly affirmed their common goal to have decent, safe and secure jobs and livelihoods, and access to basic social services, including low-cost housing for the poor.

They emphasized the importance of the IWS, who are waste experts in their own right, in the development and implementation of solid waste management strategies and plans from barangay to the national level.

To achieve this, the participants pressed for the recognition of the IWS and their representation at the barangay solid waste management committees, provincial, city and municipal solid waste management boards and the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC).

Engr. Eligio Ildenfonso, Executive Director of the NSWMC, told the participants:  “Huwag maliitin ang papel ninyo sa lipunan. May importanteng serbisyo kayo na dapat kilalanin ng mga pamahalaang lokal para mabawasan ang basurang itinatapon sa landfill na dapt ay latak lamang.” ("Do not underestimate your role in the society. You render an important service that local governments should recognize to reduce the volume of trash to be disposed of in landfills, which should be limited to residuals.)

Rey Palacio, also from the NSWMC, briefed the participants about the key features of the National Framework Plan for the Informal Sector in Solid Waste Management, as well as the National Solid Waste Management Strategy, in line with Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

The forum also discussed the imminent threat to the IWS from waste disposal technologies that burn discards, including recyclables, in the guise of generating electricity.

“Our goal is to prevent recyclables from being wasted to feed the so-called waste-to-energy (WtE) incineration plants, undermining recycling efforts, and jeopardizing the economic livelihood of waste pickers and their families,” stressed Lora Abengoza, WtE Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The forum also sought to inform the IWS about the opportunities under Republic Act 10771, or the Green Jobs Act.

As discussed by Brenalyn Peji, Director of the Institute for Labor Studies of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), R.A. 10771 seeks to promote and incentivize green jobs such as jobs that help to protect the ecosystems and biodiversity, reduce energy, materials and water consumption, decarbonize the economy, and minimize or altogether avoid generation of all forms of waste and pollution.

Aside from DOLE and the NSWMC, the forum was also attended by the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP).



16 August 2017

World’s First Health & Environment Global Treaty on Mercury Becomes International Law

The Minamata Convention, the world’s first legally binding global agreement to reduce mercury pollution, becomes International law on Wednesday, August 16th, 2017. Environmental health leaders from IPEN (a global network of NGOs in over 100 countries combatting toxic pollutants) celebrate the historical global health and environmental treaty and call on world governments to take the next steps to ensure “no more Minamatas.”

The treaty, say IPEN leaders, is the beginning of the end of mercury in the global economy. But to actualize the aim of the treaty—protecting the health of current and future generations, food chains and the environment from mercury pollution— requires stronger coordinated global action. Ending mercury use and emissions at its primary sources such as small-scale gold mining, coal fired power plants and cement kilns and halting the global mercury trade are key. Identifying and remediating contaminated sites are also essential to protecting human health from the highly toxic metal. 

The Minamata Convention, the first legally binding chemical treaty in a decade, recognizes that mercury is a global threat to human health, livelihood and the environment.  Currently 74 countries have ratified the treaty, exceeding the threshold of 50 countries that allows the treaty to enter into force.

“Mercury-contaminated sites have become a slow disaster in many countries, poisoning fish stocks and making communities sick. It is not enough to ban new industrial uses. To prevent mercury devastation for new generations, we need unified guidelines so that countries can identify and control risk from these sites and clean up communities where heavy mercury loads in the environment perpetuate harm to current and future generations,” said IPEN Mercury Policy Advisor, Dr. Lee Bell.

Use of mercury in gold mining and coal fired power plants are leading causes of mercury emissions on the planet. Small scale gold mining is an extremely hazardous process that sickens miners, their families and communities. According to the United Nations Environment Program, approximately 15 million people in over  70 countries engage in artisanal small scale gold mining (ASGM) activities for their livelihood, practices that mainly use mercury. Although declining, mercury from illicit sources have been and are still being used in many illegal small-scale gold mining practices.

“The tragedy of mercury causes profound health and economic impacts in some of the most impoverished communities around the world; communities that subsist through small scale gold mining. Unless we take global action to end the international mercury trade that dumps mercury into communities near gold mining sites, we will continue to poison some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people on our planet,” said IPEN lead for ASGM and Goldman Prize Winner Yuyun Ismawati.

To protect residents from adverse health effects, countries must improve their mercury monitoring, health measures, and food advisories, and increase the capacity of health practitioners to understand and tackle issues related to mercury poisoning.

IPEN Co-Chair and Goldman Prize Winner Dr. Olga Speranskaya says, “Monitoring of mercury levels in food products must be improved. The majority of developing countries, and countries with economies in transition, do not issue recommendations to pregnant women on daily intake limits of mercury-containing food products such fish and rice, with dire consequences. Most developing countries lack limits for mercury levels in fish. Those that have established limits, often set them lower than relevant limits of developed countries, thus reducing the level of protection of their residents from the adverse health impacts of mercury.”

Just as the treaty itself emerged from the work of hundreds of NGOs around the world to raise the alarm on far-reaching mercury impacts, the NGO community is resolved to ensure the treaty is effective.

“Our community of global environmental health, justice, and human rights NGOs will continue to hold the world’s governments accountable to uphold the spirit and intent of the treaty, to encourage more countries to ratify, and to advocate for governments to take necessary actions so that this important agreement successfully protects the many millions of humans threatened by mercury,” said Pamela Miller, IPEN Co-Chair.

For her part, Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition ( an active member of IPEN), said: “We appeal to our political leaders, particularly President Rodrigo Duterte, to cause the immediate ratification of the Minamata Convention.  Ratifying the mercury treaty and ensuring its effective enforcement, nationally and internationally, will be the just way to honor Minamata and affirm our commitment against a repeat of such catastrophic mercury poisoning tragedy in the Philippines and elsewhere.”

The historical treaty is named after the Minamata disaster in Japan in which industrial dumping of mercury into Minamata Bay killed and sickened tens of thousands of people.

Mercury exposure damages the nervous system, kidneys, and cardiovascular system. Developing organ systems, such as the fetal nervous system, are the most sensitive to the toxic effects of mercury, although nearly all organs are vulnerable. Human exposure to mercury occurs primarily through the consumption of contaminated fish and through direct contact with mercury vapor through small scale gold mining practices. Very small amounts of mercury, as little as 1 ppm measured in hair, has been recognized by the US EPA as a threshold above which mercury can cause brain damage in developing fetuses. New scientific literature is suggesting that mercury is even more harmful than previously understood, with negative neurological impacts noted at levels above 0.58 ppm. 

Coal fired power plants, the second greatest source of mercury contamination and a primary contributor to climate change, release atmospheric mercury which deposits into the world’s oceans and enters the food chain, accumulating in fish and burdening human health. 

IPEN is a network of non-governmental organizations working in more than 100 countries to reduce and eliminate the harm to human health and the environment from toxic chemicals.

15 August 2017

Over 100 Groups Clamor for PH Ratification of Treaty vs. Mercury Pollution

Civil society groups pressed the government to join the 74 countries that have so far ratified a historic global agreement to combat mercury pollution, which will enter into force tomorrow, August 16.

In an urgent letter sent last Monday to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, over 100 environmental, health and labor rights advocates urged the government to work for the immediate ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and to secure the required Senate concurrence prior to the First Conference of Parties (COP1).

The groups also sent the letter to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu, and Energy Secretary Alfredo Cusi.

While the Philippines through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury in 2013, the government has yet to ratify the historic treaty.

“We owe it to the people of Minamata, the Japanese city after whom the agreement was named, and to the Filipino people to ensure that the convention is ratified and enforced to protect public health and the environment against mercury pollution,” said Eileen Sison, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

Minamata suffered heavily from decades-long dumping of mercury-tainted industrial wastewater from Chisso chemical factory into the Minamata Bay, poisoning the fish that people ate and leading to crippling illnesses known today as the Minamata disease.

To date, 74 governments have ratified the convention.  

The groups are pushing for the treaty’s expedited ratification so that the Philippines could attend the COP1 as a State Party and not as a mere observer. The COP1 will take place on September 24-29 this year in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Ratifying  the Minamata Convention on Mercury will further strengthen our nation’s efforts to prevent, if not eliminate, threats of  mercury pollution as this will allow the Philippines to effectively engage in the treaty processes, address gaps in existing regulations, and gain access to financial resources and beneficial technology transfer and capacity-building opportunities," the groups explained.

The groups noted that the Philippines actively and meaningfully participated in the mercury treaty negotiations from 2010-2013.

They also cited the country’s pursuit of progressive policies and programs to address  mercury pollution, including phasing out mercury-based medical devices in 2010 (DOH A.O. 2008-21), banning mercury use in mineral processing in artisanal and small-scale gold mining in 2012 (E.O.  79-2012), introducing extended producer responsibility for lighting products containing mercury in 2013 (Joint DENR-DOE A.O. 2013-09-0001),and prohibiting  over 135 mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics since 2010 to date (various FDA advisories).

According to the Ratification Dossier prepared by the DENR with assistance from the Swiss Confederation and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, “the existing policies, programs and regulations have, to some degree, prepared the Philippines in terms of fulfilling the requirements of the Convention.”

“Despite the economic cost to comply with the provisions of the Convention, the long-term benefits of becoming a Party far outweigh the disadvantages,” the dossier said, stressing “the Convention is consistent with the country’s basic policy to protect and preserve the right to health of Filipinos, and the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology.”

Key highlights of the treaty include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

In line with Executive Order 459, Series of 1997, the DENR shall endorse the treaty to the Department of Foreign Affairs, which shall then transmit it to the President for his ratification.  Upon ratification, the DFA shall then submit the treaty to the Senate for concurrence.

While other key agencies like the Departments of Health, Labor and Employment, Science and Technology and Trade Industry have agreed to the treaty ratification, the DoE has yet to provide the DENR with its Certificate of Concurrence.

Among the groups who signed the letter to President Duterte and Secretaries Cayetano, Cimatu and Cusi were the Alyansa Tigil Mina, Arugaan, Associated Labor Unions, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Cavite Green Coalition, Center for Environmental Concerns, Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Convergence, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm, Interface Development Interventions, Inc., International Association of Oral Medicine & Toxicology, IPEN, Miriam College Environmental Studies Institute, Mother Earth Foundation, Oceana Philippines, Palawan NGO Network Inc., Pesticide Action Network, Public Services Independent Labor Confederation, Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa, Teachers Dignity Coalition, The Climate Reality Project Philippines, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, World Wide Fund for Nature and the Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippine Foundation, Inc.



14 August 2017

Caloocan City: Barangay 178 Ordinance on Toxic CRTs Gets Rousing Support from Residents

Residents of Barangay 178 in Camarin, Caloocan City threw their unanimous support behind a timely health and environmental measure banning the unlawful breaking and dumping of toxic cathode ray tubes (CRTs).

CRTs, the glass video display component of television and computer sets, contain dangerous levels of lead and other hazardous substances, including barium, cadmium and fluorescent powders that must be handled and disposed of in an environmentally-sound manner.

At a well-attended public hearing held on August 12 and presided over by Barangay Chairperson Editha Labasbas, close to 500 residents voted overwhelmingly for the adoption of Barangay Ordinance No. 004, Series of 2017, which prohibits and penalizes the illegal breaking and disposal of CRTs in their area of jurisdiction.

“We laud Barangay 178 for taking a decisive move to curb toxic threats in their community from the reckless destruction and disposal of CRTs,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

The ordinance authored by Councilor Rosalinda Frias and co-authored by Councilor Nida Quiza was in response to a report filed by the EcoWaste Coalition alerting the barangay and city authorities about the danger posed by discarded CRTs to the residents’ health and their environment.

Last March 5, 2017, the EcoWaste Coalition found piles of broken CRT glasses in several spots by the creekside and at the creek itself, which the group immediately reported to Labasbas and Caloocan City Mayor Oscar Malapitan.

“The action taken by Barangay 178 should encourage other communities to tackle the menace of e-waste and to support the government-led drive to safely manage CRTs,” Dizon added.

Dizon was referring to the five-year project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau, in cooperation with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and other partners, towards the safe management of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) for electric cooperatives, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in e-wastes.

The plastic casings of CRTs often contain PBDEs, a class of toxic flame retardant chemicals targeted for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

The ordinance also noted that "the liquid-crystal display of some television and computer monitors are illuminated by cold cathode fluorescent lamps containing mercury, a chemical that is hazardous to human health and the environment."

"Barangay 178 is committed to preventing chemical pollution arising from the unsafe breaking and unlawful dumping of broken CRTs in the surroundings and waterways to safeguard the health and safety of its constituents and the ecosystems," the ordinance emphasized.

Violators of the ordinance shall pay a fine P300 and render three-hour community service for the first offense.

For the second offense, a fine of P500 shall be imposed plus five-hour community service.

For the third offense, violators shall be fined P1,000 and be required to do eight-hour community service. 

Barangay Ordinance 004-2017 shall take effect 15 days after submission to the Caloocan City Council for review and approval.



13 August 2017

EcoWaste Coalition Welcomes Industry Assurance that Latex Paints are Mercury-Free

The EcoWaste Coalition, a watch group on toxic chemicals, products and wastes, lauded the country’s paint manufacturers for assuring the public that latex paints being sold in
the market are free of mercury.

“We commend our paint makers for producing mercury-free water-based paint formulations. This augurs well for the industry’s progressive shift to lead-free solvent-based paints used for decorative and industrial applications.  This is really a good news for the Filipino family as both lead and mercury are known neurotoxins that are particularly dangerous for pregnant women and children,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Through a statement, the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) said that paint makers “have not used or have long since halted the use of mercury-based preservatives in latex paint formulations.”

Boysen and Davies, for example, have been making mercury-free latex paints since the late 1970s, way ahead of the US ban on mercury in interior latex paint in 1990 and exterior latex paint in 1991.

“The use of phenylmercuric acetate and other mercury compounds as biocide, fungicide or mildewcide, particularly in latex paints, is a thing of the past as alternative paint preservatives to prolong a product’s shelf-life without causing serious health risks are available in the raw materials market,” the PAPM said.

The PAPM made the statement amid the ongoing work to update the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order (AO) 1997-38, or the Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Mercury and Mercury Compounds, in preparation for the country’s ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

The PAPM is one with the government, industry and the civil society in promoting the ratification and implementation of the Minamata Convention, a globally binding agreement that aims to prevent and reduce mercury pollution to protect public health and the environment, the statement said.

The PAPM, in particular, poses no objection to the removal of the use of mercury and mercury compounds in paint manufacturing as an allowable use under DENR A.O. 1997-38, which was promulgated almost 20 years ago.

“Our strong support for mercury-free paint and for lead-safe paint is consistent with the industry thrust to provide the market with eco-friendly paints,  and in line with the DENR AO 2013-24, or the CCO for Lead and Lead Compounds, and the international goal of eliminating lead paint by 2020 as declared by the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint,” the PAPM said.

The PAPM also reiterated its “commitment to greener innovations and to meaningful collaborations with the DENR, the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN (a global civil society network promoting safe chemicals policies and practices) for the benefit of our customers and our nation.”

The paint industry statement is very timely as the Minamata Convention on Mercury is scheduled to enter into force on August 16, 2017.