50 Groups Chide Sec. Duque for Tainted Peanut Butter Incineration

Quezon City. Fifty public interest groups have chided Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for “blatant violation and contempt of the incineration ban” for leading the destruction of salmonella-tainted peanut butter in an obscure incinerator in Taguig City last week.

Last Tuesday, April 7, Sec. Duque watched over the televised incineration of 3,631 bottles of contaminated peanut butter at the Intercontinental Wastes Disposal System, Inc. (IWDSI), which the Samuya Manufacturing Inc. contracted to destroy the infected stocks.

In a letter delivered today at the DOH headquarters in Sta. Cruz, Manila, the groups led by the EcoWaste Coalition strongly assailed what they described as a “despicable disregard of the law against incineration.”

Doctors, lawyers, priests and nuns, celebrities, and activists were among those who rushed to the defense of Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act that bans the burning of municipal, bio-medical and hazardous wastes, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes.

“By openly circumventing the law in this case, the DOH has become a party to the unnecessary and untenable propagation of a formidable public hazard, which could have been avoided given the availability of alternative methods of dealing with the problem of salmonella tainted products,” the letter said.

“We are worried that dangerous pollutants such as cancer-causing dioxins were most likely emitted in the course of killing the salmonella pathogens. The recalled goods should definitely be dealt with as it should be without creating another toxic challenge,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

For his part, Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia commented that “it’s quite a shock to see a Cabinet official flaunting the law and even more outrageous when you consider that it was the health secretary involved in violating a measure intended to safeguard public health.”

According to the groups, the incineration of the recalled peanut butter fell foul of the incineration ban under R.A. 8749 that was enacted in 1999 to safeguard public health against the hazards of dioxin and persistent toxic pollution.

They added that it also ignored the country’s obligations under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) that seeks to minimize and where feasible eradicate the formation and release of dioxins and other unintentionally-produced POPs.

The groups asked Sec. Duque to clarify if locally available non-incineration options for destroying the salmonella in Samuya’s products were considered at all. On the issue of dioxins, the groups asked Sec. Duque what precautionary actions were taken to deal with the problem of dioxin pollution.

“As the lead health agency whose goal is to ‘guarantee equitable, sustainable and quality health for all Filipinos,’ we expect the DOH to champion the precautionary principle and remain vigilant in implementing the incineration ban – all the time – for the sake of the public health and the environment,” the groups said.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846