Wednesday, May 20, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: RP Urged to Join PCBs Elimination Network

21 May 2009, Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog urged the government to seek membership in a new initiative that aims to enhance international cooperation to safely eradicate polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

In a statement issued coinciding with the 8th anniversary today of the signing of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the EcoWaste Coalition lauded the recent decision of the 4th Conference of Parties (COP4) to establish the PCBs Elimination Network (PEN).

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Usec. Demetrio Ignacio and Angelita Brabante represented the Philippines at the historic conference, which also saw nine chemicals being added to the UN POPs blacklist.

“We welcome the increased attention to reduce the serious health and environmental threats from PCBs by ensuring their environmentally sound management, especially in countries that lack financial and technological resources to deal with their toxic stockpiles,” said Rey Palacio, project staff of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We urge the government and other stakeholders from the public and private sectors to get involved in the PEN and benefit from the unique information exchange, networking and capacity building opportunities,” he said.

“RP’s membership in PEN will hopefully open new avenues for accessing essential resources to support the ongoing multi-stakeholders’ partnership to phase out PCBs in the country using a non-combustion technology,” Palacio added.

The PEN seeks members from governments, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, donor agencies, owners of PCBs, related service industries, and scientific and technical experts. The Geneva-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will act as its preliminary Secretariat.

PCBs, one of the so-called “dirty dozen” POPs, are reportedly the most distributed toxic chemicals listed in the Stockholm Convention in use globally, with an estimated quantity of five million tonnes of PCB oil and contaminated equipment worldwide.

Based on preliminary inventories, the Philippines has 6,879 tonnes of PCB containing equipment and wastes, comprising about 2,400 tonnes of PCBs oil, mostly found in electrical utilities and cooperatives, industrial establishments and manufacturing plants, servicing facilities, military camps and hospitals.

Signed in 2001, the Stockholm Convention is an international agreement to address global chemical pollution. Ratified by the Senate in 2004, it seeks to protect human health and the environment from POPs.

“The signing of the Stockholm Convention is a triumph for environmental health and underscores the primacy of public welfare over the narrow economic interest of the chemical industry,” commented Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Public vigilance is still required however to ensure that these persistent poisons are really taken out of commerce,” he emphasized.

Friday, May 8, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: RP’s breakthrough project on PCBs garners support

8 May 2009, Quezon City. Marking May 9 to 15 as “Toxic Awareness and Action Week", environmental and chemical safety advocacy groups expressed support for a breakthrough multistakeholders initiative that will rid the country of some highly toxic industrial chemicals.

The Ban Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm and Mother Earth Foundation welcomed the United Nations-backed effort to safely address the country’s stockpiles of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, a group of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), using a
non-combustion approach.

Dubbed as the “Non-Com POPs Project,” this will assist the Philippines in meeting the goals of the Chemical Control Order for PCBs issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) by ensuring the safe handling and environmentally sound storage and destruction of PCBs. The CCO sets a phase out target for PCBs by 2014.

The project will also comply with the requirements of the Stockholm Convention on the destruction of POPs that will not result to the formation and release of dioxins and furans to the air, water and soil.

“The ‘Non-Com POPs Project’ will help our nation in dealing with PCBs in a manner that will not cause any further toxic harm to our people and the ecosystems. We commend the public-private partnership that is working doubly hard to make this happen,” said Rey Palacio of the EcoWaste Coalition.

A general assembly in the host community in Barangay Batangas Dos, Mariveles, Bataan will take place on May 9 to assure the populace of the safety and ecological soundness of the project and to strengthen community ownership and participation in the pioneering project,

The “Non-Com POPs Project” has earlier 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 said in a statement.

The “Non-Com POPs Project” is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as the implementing agency, the DENR – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) as the national executing agency and the Philippine National Oil Company – Alternative Fuels Corporation (PAFC) as the operating entity.

The other project partners include Meralco, National Grid Corp. and the National Power Corp. from the private sector and the concerned non-government organizations from the public sector.

As the preparation for the “Non-Com POPs Project” goes in full swing, the public interest groups called on the government to continue with the effort to complete the national inventory of PCBs and ensure their safe management and ultimate destruction in the soon-to-be launched facility.

PCBs are thin, clear to pale-yellow liquids generally used as dielectric fluids in old electrical transformers and capacitors. They persist in the environment for very long time, enter the food chain and accumulate in human and animal tissues. Considered as possible carcinogen, PCBs, according to three new studies, alter brain development and produce
neurobehavioral problems in children, among other health problems associated with the chemicals.