Chemical Accident Prevention and Preparedness Policy Pushed Following Pasig City Ammonia Gas Leak

The latest chemical leak incident in Pasig City should prompt the government into fast tracking a strong policy and mechanism that will enhance chemical accident prevention and preparedness in the country.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the statement in response to the ammonia spill last Sunday, 1 April, at a candy manufacturing plant in Barangay Manggahan, Pasig City.

Information obtained from the incident report published at the website of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) indicated that the leak occurred from a tank inside the Polar Bear Plant.

According to the NDRRMC report, the incident affected three persons, including two men (Johnny Rey Abaco and Celetonio Tamayo) who both sustained chemical burns.

“This is not the first chemical spill of its kind. There have been ammonia-related leaks in the past that affected residents, including young children,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT.

Dizon was referring to the ammonia gas leaks that overpowered hundreds of residents in Quezon City and more recently in Zamboanga City causing breathing difficulties, eye irritation, dizziness and vomiting among the victims.

On 29 February 2012 an ammonia gas leak from the ENL ice plant and storage in Barangay Ayala, Zamboanga City sickened over 100 villagers.

On 20 February 2011, over 300 families had to be evacuated as a result of an ammonia gas spill at VCNC ice plant in Barangay Bagong Bantay, Quezon City.

“The government should take its cue from this string of gas leak episodes and act decisively to avoid such incidents from happening again,” said Dizon.

“The latest incident should prompt the executive department to fast track and enforce a chemical accident prevention and preparedness policy and program with public participation,” he said.

The policy should also establish a publicly available chemical right to know system as it allows better transparency and accountability where hazardous chemicals are involved, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

This will allow public awareness on what chemicals are being stored, used, transported or disposed of in their communities, which enables them to prepare a contingency plan for dealing with these chemicals when spills or natural disasters cause the chemicals to spill, the group pointed out.

The policy, the group added, should also support increased capacity-building for rapid response in case of chemical accidents for both the public and private sectors, and further support clean-up and rehabilitation of contaminated areas.