2016 Election Candidates Urged to Champion People’s Right to Chemical Safety

Photo by Gigie Cruz

As the nation commemorates the International Human Rights
Day, a watchdog group on wastes and toxics called upon the candidates for the
2016 polls to uphold the people’s right to chemical safety.
Through a statement issued to mark the 67th anniversary
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the EcoWaste Coalition urged political
aspirants to add in “The People’s Right to Chemical Safety: A Fifteen-Point Human Rights Agenda” into their electoral
The said document was adopted by the Commission on Human
Rights (CHR) on November 14, 2014 “to serve as guide in the matter of the
people’s right to chemical safety… with toxics-free society as our ultimate goal.”
“Chemical safety at home, school, community and the
entire ecosystem is everyone’s business. 
To protect the public health and the environment, we ask politicians,
especially those eyeing the top elective posts to tell the electorate what they
intend to do to cut the harmful effects of hazardous chemicals on humans and ecosystem
health,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
She pointed out that strong chemicals regulatory systems
and standards are needed, nationally and globally, to reduce, if not eliminate,
toxic chemical exposure considering the rapid growth of chemicals production
and their widespread use in agriculture and the various industries.
“We hope to hear from our presidential, congressional and
senatorial bets about their priority policy and program proposals to reduce chemical
pollution and improve the health conditions of the vulnerable populations,” she
The “most affected vulnerable sectors,” according to the
CHR,  “are women of child-bearing age,
children, elderly, indigenous, peoples, farmers, workers, persons with
disabilities, and persons with chemical sensitivities.”
“For example, we want the candidates to help the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in pushing for the early
ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and reduce the adverse
health impacts due to exposure to this highly toxic metal,” Lucero said.
The Minamata Convention  provides for
controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries
where mercury is used, released or emitted.  The Philippines signed the mercury treaty in
2013, but has yet to ratify it.

“We want them to proclaim that our country is no dumping
ground for wastes and toxics, and that they will see to it that the Basel Ban Amendment
will be ratified by the next administration,” she said.
The Basel Ban Amendment is a revision to the
Basel Convention, a global environmental treaty, that seeks to prohibit exports
of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries for final disposal,
reuse, recycling and recovery.  The
Philippines ratified the Basel Convention in 1993, but has not ratified the
Basel Ban Amendment.

“Furthermore, we want the candidates to declare their
strong support for the ongoing phase-out of lead-containing paints to prevent
childhood lead exposure, which can damage the brain and cause irreversible mental
impairment,” she said.
“We want them to
work for the phase-out of highly hazardous pesticides and the adoption of
agro-ecology to promote the health of farmers, farming communities and the
ecosystems,” she said.

“We want them to state their stance in favor of holding
manufacturers of electronics and other goods responsible for the entire life
cycle of their products, including their safe recycling and disposal,” she
“We want them to say that the ban on waste incineration
will be enforced and even strengthened to conserve resources and prevent the generation
of nasty pollutants that can harm human bodies and pollute the climate,” she
Through the chemical safety advisory, the CHR called on
national and local authorities “to actively promote zero waste resource
management and reject polluting technologies such as incinerators and its variants that burn resources, undermine recycling and
recycling jobs, and contaminate communities with health-damaging pollutants.”
According to the CHR, the “15-point human rights agenda
on chemical safety, by and large, reflect the paramount importance of applying
the principles of precaution, pollution prevention, public participation, polluter
pays, sustainable development, environmental justice and other key elements of
chemical safety such as green design, toxic use reduction and substitution, ‘no
data, no market,’ and freedom of information.”