Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Working together for a PCBs-free Philippines

“Working together for a PCBs-free Philippines”. More groups, this time from both the public and private sectors involved in waste and sanitation issues in Cebu joined the EcoWaste Coalition in its all-out support to the efforts to eliminate the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the Philippines. The country targets to be PCB-free by 2014 through the United Nations-backed endeavor called the Non-Com POPs Project. In this photo, taken during a workshop for the informal waste sectors (IWS), are representatives from the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, BAN Toxics, Freedom from Debt Coalition-Cebu, Cebu City Health Department, and various other organizations and groups from the IWS. (Photo by Anne Larracas)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cebu groups back project to safely eliminate PCBs

Cebu non-government organizations (NGOs) and other civil society groups have thrown their support behind a collaborative venture to manage the country’s stockpiles of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) wastes in an environmentally-sound manner.

PCBs, which belong to the so-called “dirty dozen” POPs (persistent organic pollutants), are oily liquids used widely as dielectric fluids in old electrical transformers and capacitors. Because of their adverse health and environmental effects, countries, including the Philippines, are taking steps to phase out and eliminate the use of PCBs.

At a workshop held yesterday in the University of Cebu on “precautionary principle,” some 30 participants representing 19 Cebu-based groups expressed their support for the initiative that is fittingly named as the “Non-Com POPs Project” for applying a non-combustion technology to get rid of PCBs.

With support from the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, a non-combustion facility will soon commence operations in the province of Bataan to process PCB wastes, including PCB-contaminated equipment and materials.

“We are thrilled by this expression of support from Cebu that we hope will translate into increased public awareness on PCBs and vigilance against any improper storage, ‘recycling’ and disposal, which can result to toxic exposure and harm,” said Rey Palacio, project staff, EcoWaste Coalition.

Citing information from the “Code of Practice on the Management of PCBs” published by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB), the EcoWaste Coalition warned that PCBs, recognized as a suspected human carcinogen, are “toxic, bioaccumulative and persistent, thus posing risks to health and the environment.”

“Informed NGOs and other organized groups are in the best position to disseminate information locally and to alert the DENR-EMB regional office of activities that can expose the people and the ecosystems to PCBs,” he said.

The statement signed by the groups listed how the Philippines will benefit from the “Non-Com POPs Project," such as in:

1. Fulfilling the people’s constitutional rights to health and to a balanced and healthful ecology;

2. Abiding by the DENR phase out target for PCBs by 2014 as stated in the Chemical Control Order for PCBs;

3. Building national capacity to manage PCBs through a non-combustion approach in line with the incineration ban under the Clean Air Act.

4. Complying with our obligations as party to the Stockholm Convention on POPs; and

5. Setting a good example for the environmentally-sound management of PCBs that developing countries can learn from and replicate.

Acknowledging the necessity of “working together to realize a toxics-free future,” the groups committed to “educate the public about PCBs and the project, and participate in efforts to ensure the safety of our ecosystems and our people, especially our children, women, industrial workers, waste handlers, and informal recyclers, against exposure to PCBs and other harmful chemicals.”