Sunday, February 28, 2010

Representatives from NGOs, academe, and other sectors in Bataan pose with the theme slogan "Working together for a PCBs-free Philippines" banner in this photo taken on 11 February 2010 after a seminar of the same theme.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chemical Safety Advocates Laud Global Effort to Eliminate PCBs

Quezon City, Philippines/Bali, Indonesia. Civil society groups promoting chemical safety welcomed the launch today of a global mechanism that will help the Philippines and other countries address a highly toxic industrial chemical pollutant called PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls.

The EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and the International POPs Elimination Network lauded the launch of the PCBs Elimination Network (PEN) at the start of the simultaneous extraordinary meetings of the Conferences of Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions in Bali, Indonesia.

“The launch of PEN will complement and bolster our ongoing effort in the Philippines to safely manage and eliminate our own stockpiles of PCB oils and contaminated equipment such as electric transformers and capacitors,” said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

“The current public-private partnership to establish a closed-loop non-combustion facility, with support from the United Nations, to destroy the country’s stockpiles will be our best contribution to the global movement to purge the planet of PCBs,” he added.

Data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources show that the Philippines has 6,879 tonnes of PCB containing equipment and wastes comprising about 2,400 tonnes of PCBs oil. The global estimate for PCBs is 5 million tonnes.

“The formation of PEN should assist developing countries and countries with economies in transition who lack financial and technical resources to identify, contain and destroy or irreversibly transform
PCB wastes both in closed uses such as transformers and in open applications like paints and sealants,” said Alan Watson, IPEN representative to PEN and chair of PEN’s disposal working group.

PEN is a collaborative arrangement that seeks to promote the environmentally sound management (ESM) of oils and equipment containing or contaminated with PCBs in line with the goals and requirements of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

PEN will facilitate information exchange on the ESM of PCBs, promote research, technical assistance and technology transfer, foster networking and cooperation, raise awareness on successful ESM activities and establish annual awards for contributions to the ESM of PCBs.

According to the UN Environment Program, developing countries and countries with economies in transition suffer from the lack of capacities, poor inventories, limited resources and inaccessible
information to ensure ESM of their PCBs.

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Una sa ASEAN, “PCBs-free” na Pinas

Nangunguna na ang Pilipinas sa mga bansang kasapi sa ASEAN sa pagsugpo sa mapanganib na lasong kemikal na polychlorinated biphenyls o PCBs, gamit ang teknolohiyang subok na ligtas at makakalikasan.

Ito ang binigyang-diin ng Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) ng Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine National Oil Company – Alternative Fuels Corporation (PAFC), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), at mga NGOs na sama-samang nagtutulong-tulong upang marating ng bansa ang pagiging PCBs-free ng mas maaga sa itinakda ng Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

“Inumpisahan na natin ngayon lamang linggong ito ang konstruksyon ng pasilidad na gagamitin upang wasakin ang mga imbak na PCB sa bansa, gamit ang pamamaraang hindi nagsusunog at nagtatapon,” pagmamalaking sinabi ni Retired Rear Admiral Alfredo Abueg, Jr., Park Manager ng PAFC kung saan kasalukuyang itinatayo ang pasilidad.

“Ang Pilipinas marahil ay maituturing na ngayong siyang nagtatakda ng bilis tungo sa pag-abot sa pambansa at pandaigdigang obligasyon nito na bigyang proteksyon ang kanyang mamamayan at kapaligiran mula sa mga banta ng PCBs,” ayon kay Rey Palacio ng EcoWaste Coalition. “Maaari nating matupad ang ating obligasyon nang higit na maaga kaysa maraming mga bansa kung magiging seryoso tayo sa pagtalima sa Chemical Control Order for PCBs,” dagdag pa niya.

Ang CCO for PCBs na inisyu ng DENR ay nag-aatas ng wastong pangangasiwa tungo sa lubusang pag-aalis at pagpapatigil sa paggamit o pag-iimbak ng PCBs sa bansa pagsapit ng 2014, higit na maaga kaysa itinakda ng Stockholm Convention. Kadalasang ginagamit pa rin ang PCBs bilang dielectric fluid sa mga electrical transformer at capacitor.

Kaugnay naman ng teknolohiyang gagamitin upang wasakin ang mga PCBs, ipinagmalaki ni Engr. Edwin Navaluna ng EMB, na “hindi ito katulad ng pangwasak sa PCBs na ginagamit sa ibang bansa, kung saan sinusunog nila ang mga PCBs at kontaminadong materyal.” Si Navaluna ang Tagapag-ugnay ng proyektong ito na tinatawag na Non-Combustion of POPs o “Non-Com POPs Project”.

“Ang paggamit ng isang mahusay na teknolohiyang hindi nagsusunog upang tugunan ang mga imbak na PCBs sa bansa ay alinsunod sa mga layunin at hinihingi ng Clean Air Act, Stockholm Convention at ng Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, upang bigyang proteksyon ang mga mamamayan at ekosistema mula sa panganib ng mga lasong kemikal,” pagbibigay-diin ni Manny Calonzo ng Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), isang grupong internasyunal na kumikilos kontra incinerators.

Maigting na tinututulan ng EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA, at iba pang kasamahan nilang mga NGOs at Civil Society Organizations ang nakagawiang pamamaraan ng paggamit ng incinerator upang wasakin ang mga PCBs, sapagkat higit pang matinding panganib sa kalusugan ng mamamayan at ng kapaligiran ang idinudulot nito, tulad ng pagbubuga ng mas mapanganib pang kemikal na dioxin.
Ang Non-Com POPs Project, sa suporta ng Global Environment Facility (GEF) at ng UNIDO ay pinangangasiwaan ng DENR, samantalang ang PAFC naman ang siyang mamamahala sa operasyon ng non-combustion facility na kasalukuyang itinatayo sa Industrial Park nito sa Mariveles, Bataan.

Ang EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, BAN Toxics, Health Care Without Harm, Mother Earth Foundation at marami pang mga grupong makakalikasan sa ilalim ng EcoWaste Coalition ay ang mga grupong nagsusulong ng pampublikong interes kaugnay ng proyekto.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The PCBs in our lives, by Joe Torres

The PCBs in our lives
By Joe Torres
Remate Tonight, 17 Pebrero 2010
About 12 years ago, we wrote about the continuing threats brought about by PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls, despite the supposed decision of the government to phase it out.
Today, PCBs continue to threaten us and our environment.
PCBs are light or dark yellow oily mixtures, typically used as insulating materials in transformers and capacitors and in heat transfer fluids and lubricants.
While the Philippines is not a PCB manufacturer, the EcoWaste Coalition said the country has considerable stocks of PCBs due to importation of electrical transformers through the years.
Based on government inventory, we have some 6,879 tons of PCB-contaminated equipment and wastes comprising about 2,400 tons of PCB oils.
PCBs can be found in some electrical utilities and cooperatives, transformer servicing facilities, old industrial plants and commercial buildings, military camps and bases and hospitals.
Other equipment where PCBs can be found are old fluorescent ballasts, liquid-filled circuit breakers, and voltage regulators, among others.
Exposure to PCBs due to inhalation, skin absorption and the intake of PCB-contaminated food can disturb and damage the skin, liver and gastrointestinal tract as well as the nervous and immune systems.
Experts have warned that health problems brought about by exposure to PCBs include adverse reproductive, developmental and endocrine effects, liver problem and chloracne, with the latter two being the most common signs of exposure to PCBs.
Three US studies even show that PCBs alter brain development and produce neurobehavioral problems in children. The chemicals are also suspected to be cancer-causing.
This week, the Philippines is set to become the first country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to eliminate its stockpiles of persistent organic pollutants, including PCBs.
Stakeholders from the government, industry and the civil society noted the steady progress of the landmark United Nations-supported initiative on PCBs called the “Non-Com POPs Project.”
The Philippines has demonstrated “the best available technology and best environmental practice for the destruction of PCB toward the greening of industries and the pursuit of sustainable industrial development,” a United Nations representative reported last week.
Civil society groups welcome the “collaborative effort” between the government and the private sector. But, of course, much has to be done, especially in the area of implementation.
The PCB issue should not only be a concern of the government, the business sector and environmentalist groups like the EcoWaste Coalition. It should also be a concern of all of us, especially those engaged in businesses like junkshops and those working in dumpsites.
Junkshop workers and people around it can be exposed to PCBs through inhalation, skin contact with PCBs or contaminated materials, and by unknowingly consuming contaminated water or food products.
While the government and advocates are celebrating the milestones in their campaign against PCBs, we hope that the issue will cascade all the way down to those threatened by these pollutants.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Philippines: to become the First PCB-Free ASEAN Nation

“Philippines: First PCBs-free ASEAN nation!”

This is the message that resounded during the two seminars and forums held in Balanga, Bataan and attended by local government officials, representatives from the NGOs, the academe, and other agencies and organizations in Bataan on the 11th and 12th of the month in view of the steady progress of the government project to ecologically and safely deal with the country’s stockpiles of the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) called polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, commonly found in electrical transformers and capacitors.

The seminars were graced by authorities from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine National Oil Company – Alternative Fuels Corporation (PAFC), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and representatives from EcoWaste Coalition who teamed up to push forward a PCBs-free Philippines even years earlier than targeted in the Senate-ratified Stockholm Convention on POPs.

“This month saw a big leap in our accomplishment of the set milestones for the project in that we have finally started construction of the non-combustion facility to be employed in the safe, closed-system, and non-burn elimination of PCBs,” explained Retired Rear Admiral Alfredo Abueg, Jr., Park Manager of PAFC, the entity to manage the operation of the non-combustion facility for the project.

“The Chemical Control Order for PCBs which the DENR issued in March 2004 aimed at the ultimate phase out of the concerned chemicals by 2014,” said DENR-EMB Director, Atty. Juan Miguel T. Cuna. “We hope that everyone would cooperate, specifically the PCB possessors, who should be ensuring that their stockpiles get into the inventory list for proper management and control toward total destruction using our very own safe and ecological non-combustion facility,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition and other environmental health groups promote the environmentally-sound management of PCBs in a manner that will prevent the release of more toxic chemical compounds such as dioxins and furans.

"Our country's effort to expedite the elimination of PCB-contaminated equipment and wastes using a non-incineration technology is a huge boost to the global movement to rid the planet of POPs. This will
surely help in advancing human and ecological health amid growing concern over toxic chemicals in our bodies and the ecosystems," said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for
Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

UNIDO Representative Dr. Suresh Raj, who gave a warm opening message on the second seminar day, expressed gratitude to all the project partners for helping out in the demonstration of “the best available technology and best environmental practice for the destruction of PCB… [toward] the greening of industries… and pursuing sustainable industrial development.”

The Non-Com POPs Project, through the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UNIDO is being coordinated by the DENR. PAFC, on the other hand, is the operating entity and thus in charge of the management of the non-combustion facility, which is being set up inside their Industrial Park in Mariveles, Bataan.

The EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm, BAN Toxics, Mother Earth Foundation, together with many other chemical safety advocacy and people’s interest organizations and groups under the EcoWaste Coalition uphold the public interest and ensure the public’s participation in the project processes.