Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Senator, NGOs Laud Effort to Eliminate Toxic Chemical with Non-Burn Technology

15 March 2009, Quezon City. Public health and environmental justice groups and a staunch pro-environment lawmaker mark the 5th anniversary of a government policy that could make the Philippines potentially the first among the developing countries to eliminate highly toxic industrial chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Donning yellow shirts that say “Working Together for a PCBs-Free Philippines,” chemical safety advocates led by the EcoWaste Coalition put a “PCBs-free” sticker to mock electrical transformers to signal the nation’s commitment to clear the country of its stockpiles of PCBs using a non-incineration technology.

The initiative has elicited the support of Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Chair of the Senate Committee on the Environment, who said that “the non-combustion treatment of our stockpiled PCBs is a strategic milestone in our quest to rid our nation of toxic health and environmental contaminants.”

“Let a PCBs-free Philippines be our shared gift to all Filipino children and youth of this generation and next. I commend the project participants from the public and private sectors, particularly the NGOs promoting the chemical safety agenda,” she stated.”

“The Philippines may be setting the pace in what we may consider as a vital step towards fulfilling our national and international obligations to protect our people and the environment from the hazards of PCBs,” said Rey Palacio of the EcoWaste Coalition. “We’ll be complying with our commitments much earlier than the rest of the world, provided we proceed as targeted under the Chemical Control Order (CCO) for PCBs,” he added.

The CCO for PCBs issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which took effect on March 19, 2004, requires the registration, labeling, safe handling, phase out and ban on the use or storage of PCBs in the country by 2014 or 11 years ahead of the global target.

Under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), governments have until 2025 to phase out PCBs-containing equipment such as transformers and capacitors. The Convention, which the Senate ratified in 2004, also gave governments another three years, or until 2028, to destroy the recovered PCBs.

Together with other public interest groups, the EcoWaste Coalition is supporting the implementation of the pioneering project that will help waste generators comply with the 2014 phase out target for PCBs by deploying in 2009 a safe, closed-loop, non-incineration technology for decontaminating PCBs-containing equipment and wastes.

“The adoption of a robust non-combustion technology to address our stockpiles of PCBs is consistent with the goals and requirements of the Clean Air Act, the Stockholm Convention and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, which all seek to prevent toxic chemicals from harming our bodies and the ecosystems,” said Manny Calonzo
of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

The EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA urged the DENR to complete the inventory of PCBs in the country and to ensure that the stockpiles are placed under strict control while awaiting operation of the non-combustion facility to avoid unsafe recycling and disposal.

As of January 2006, inventories show that the country has 6,879 tons of PCBs-containing equipment and wastes, comprising about 2,400 tons of PCBs oil. Much of these PCBs came from the power industry, owing to the chemicals’ usefulness as dielectric fluids in transformers and capacitors.

Last year, the government of the Philippines, with the support of the public and private sectors, launched the non-combustion project that will ensure the safe handling, environmentally-sound storage and effective destruction of PCBs in the country instead of sending them for incineration abroad.

The technology to be deployed would not be employing combustion; would be operating in closed system to prevent uncontrolled releases of dioxins and other chemicals of concern; and would be capable of achieving total destruction efficiency that approaches100%.

The DENR is the lead government agency in charge of the project, which is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Corporate project partners include the Philippine National Oil Company - Alternative Fuels Corporation, as the operating entity for the non-combustion facility, and the Meralco, National Power Corporation, National Transmission Corporation and other power-related entities.

The EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, BAN Toxics, Health Care Without Harm, and Mother Earth Foundation are among the public interest non-government organizations participating in the project.

Ecological Waste Coalition
Unit 320 Eagle Court Condominium,
26 Matalino Street, Quezon City
Phone: +63 2 9290376

PRESS RELEASE: UNIDO technology expert assures public of safe process to rid PCBs

6 February 2009, Quezon City. A visiting technology expert assured the public of the environmental soundness of the technology to be used for the safe elimination of the country’s stockpiles of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs that are generated mostly by the power sector.

Dr. Luciano Gonzales, technical consultant of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), gave this assurance last Thursday, 5 February, at the Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) in Quezon City, during his presentation of the treatment system to be employed in the destruction of the country’s PCB wastes and PCB-contaminated equipment.

During the presentation and the ensuing discussions, representatives of public interest groups such as the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Health Care Without Harm raised various safety, health, and ecological concerns regarding the technology.

Asked if there were any incidence where a technical problem occurred in the system in its employment in other countries, Dr. Gonzales straightforwardly said “none”. He added that people welcomed the technology because the technology operator did “open-house, where people come and ask questions about the system and where they get answered openly and frankly. You have to disclose. There’s nothing to hide,” he said.

The technology, which destroys PCBs through dechlorination process by making the chemical react with sodium, meets two specific criteria in the technology selection process:

Firstly, the technology would operate in a system that is essentially closed. This is to ensure that uncontrolled releases of POPs and other substances of concern are avoided.

Secondly, the technology would be capable of achieving total destruction efficiencies (DEs) for POPs and other substances of concern that approach 100 percent. This conforms with the Stockholm Convention in terms of reducing “total releases” to all media with the goal of “their continuing minimization and where feasible ultimate elimination.”

The assurance was made a week after the technology selection was formally announced by Dr. Mohamed Eisa of UNIDO, the implementing agency for the project, during the UNIDO Mission to the Philippines late this January.

“This is good news as finally, a safe, non-burn, ecological process of dealing with our country’s stockpiles of PCBs in compliance with our obligations under the Stockholm Convention and the Chemical Control Order (CCO) for PCBs is available,” says Rey Palacio of the EcoWaste Coalition, one of the groups committed to ensuring meaningful civil society involvement in the project.

The country aims to phase out the use and storage for reuse of PCBs by 2014. This is much earlier than the Stockholm Convention’s 2025 phase out target for the toxic pollutant which has been linked to various health problems, such as its being a probable carcinogen.

Ecological Waste Coalition
Unit 320 Eagle Court Condominium,
26 Matalino Street, Quezon City
Phone: +63 2 9290376