By Manny C. Calonzo
EcoWaste Coalition and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (NGO partners of the UNIDO “Non-Combustion POPs Project”)
(Published in Success stories: Stockholm Convention 2001 – 2011. 2012. To download this publication, go to http://chm.pops.int/Convention/Media/Publications/tabid/506/Default.aspx)
The Philippines today stands at a historic juncture in its quest to protect the environment and the health of its people with the construction of a ground-breaking national treatment facility for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
While it has never manufactured PCBs, the Philippines has accumulated at least 6879 tons of PCB-containing equipment and wastes from past imports of electrical transformers, most of which are to be found in electric utility, industrial, manufacturing and commercial plants and facilities.
After years of scrupulous planning and action to get through a plethora of challenges, the first ever non-combustion facility for destroying PCBs, touted as the first of its type in a developing country in Asia and the Pacific, was built in the province of Bataan, to assist the industry, the government and the people in meeting national as well as global phase-out requirements for PCBs.
Nationally, the Chemical Control Order (CCO) for PCBs issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 2004 bans the production, importation, sale, transfer, distribution and use of PCBs in open-ended, partially enclosed and totally enclosed applications. By 2014, or after a ten-year grace period, the use or storage for reuse of PCBs, including PCB-contaminated equipment, article, packaging and waste, will no longer be allowed.
Globally, the Stockholm Convention on POPs, which the Philippines ratified in 2004, also bans the production of PCBs, giving Parties until 2025 to phase out the use of PCB-containing equipment and until 2028 to treat and eliminate recovered PCBs (environmentally sound management).
To meet these national and global requirements on PCBs, the Philippines has embarked on a multi-stakeholder Non-Com POPs Project which began in 2008, and which has, from all indications, helped the country in dealing with limitations such as the inadequate inventories of PCBs, the absence of locally available technologies for effectively destroying POPs and the scarce financial resources for the huge costs involved in managing PCB stockpiles.
In close collaboration with private and public sector partners and with generous support from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau led and shepherded the project that saw the eventual establishment of a facility operated by the Philippine National Oil Company – Alternative Fuels Corporation (PAFC) in Mariveles, Bataan.
The Non-Com POPs Project aims to ensure the environmentally sound destruction of the country’s PCBs in the said facility through a closed-loop, non-incineration, sodium-based dechlorination technology.
The project integrates all essential components of a sustainable, ecological and socially-responsible approach to eliminating PCBs, such as: 1) the conduct of PCBs inventory and continuing data verification; 2) the maintenance, handling, and interim storage of PCB-containing equipment; 3) the transfer of technology, including the meticulous training of personnel; 4) public-private stakeholders’ participation; and 5) public information and outreach, particularly in host communities.
The project conforms with Article 6 of the Stockholm Convention that requires Parties to manage POPs wastes, including PCBs, in a manner protective of human health and the environment. Specifically, Article 6 directs Parties to handle, collect, transport and store such wastes in an environmentally sound manner, and to dispose such wastes in a way that the POP content is destroyed or irreversibly transformed.
The technology operates in a closed-loop system, with a total destruction efficiency approaching 100%, to prevent the uncontrolled release of by-product POPs and other environmental pollutants of concern. It is commercially available and is used in Japan for managing PCBs.
The project further takes pride in ensuring strong civil society participation in all stages of the project development and implementation, in line with Article 10 of the Stockholm Convention on “Public Information, Awareness and Education.”
For instance, from 2010 to 2011, public information activities were undertaken by participating non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other project partners to enlighten community members about the initiative, collect feedback and channel their concerns to the authorities for further action. Hundreds of local residents have participated in such activities.
Among the NGOs that have provided critical input and support for the project are the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Greenpeace Southeast Asia, along with Ban Toxics, Health Care Without Harm, Mother Earth Foundation and many other groups.
Plans are underway to strengthen the Multipartite Monitoring Team to ensure that legally-required environmental, health and social standards and requirements are duly complied by Non-Com POPs facility.
Also, to ensure sustained public awareness about PCBs and deter illegal disposal operations that can lead to the reuse and recycling of PCBs and PCB-contaminated equipment, environmental health groups led by the EcoWaste Coalition came together in March 2011 to launch the “Bantay PCBs” or PCB Watch: “The EcoWaste Coalition adopts and supports the establishment of Bantay PCBs to bring about the needed participation of various sectors toward attaining a united action to complement the government’s efforts for the safe and ecological management and destruction of PCBs,” the group said.
By working together, the Philippines hope to protect their people and the environment from PCBs. For more information about the Non-Com POPs Project: