Davao groups invoke the precautionary principle to thwart toxic menace

Davao City. Some 70 Davaoeños from the public and private sectors backed the application of the precautionary principle to safeguard the public health and the environment amid threats from toxic chemicals and processes.

At yesterday’s workshop organized by the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition and Davao-based Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), participants from educational and healthcare institutions, governmental offices and civil society groups found the precautionary principle indispensable to protect the common good.

“This is the last leg of our nationwide promotion of the precautionary principle that is integral to achieving chemical safety, especially for the most vulnerable sectors,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

At hand to impart his deep understanding of the precautionary principle was toxicologist Dr. Romy Quijano who also teaches at UP Manila College of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

“Essentially, the precautionary approach puts the protection of health and the environment over and above business interests. It should replace the current system of decision making that demands generation of extensive scientific data and requires exhaustive analysis of risks as pre-conditions to policy formulation and action,” explained Dr. Quijano.

“With the precautionary principle, there is recognition that long-term impacts of toxic chemicals are difficult to predict and often impossible to prove. It puts the burden of proof of safety on the polluter, affected communities need not carry the burden of proof of harm,” he emphasized.

The workshop heard examples of how the precautionary principle is promoted in various citizens’ campaigns and related initiatives such as in the movement against genetically modified eggplant and the aerial spraying of agrochemicals in Mindanao.

“Despite what banana plantations may say, the precautionary principle is a valid reason to stop aerial spraying as it has been adopted by other countries. The national government should take it as a primary consideration. It is the most apt way to bring social justice to countless poor small farmers in our nation,” said Lia Jasmin Esquillo, IDIS Executive Director.

“This workshop is relevant to concerned groups and communities who can justly invoke the precautionary principle to push for preventive action and policies and resist the corporate push for hazardous chemicals. Pollution prevention is the only logical option,” she stated.