9 December 2019, Quezon City. In conjunction with the observance of Human Rights Day on December 10, a waste and pollution watchdog group appealed to all sectors to uphold the citizens’ right to chemical safety.
“As Human Rights Day is commemorated, we appeal to all stakeholders, especially duty-bearers from the government and the industry, to seriously take stock of their efforts to address the people’s right to chemical safety,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
The group called to mind the “15-point human rights agenda” on chemical safety released in 2014 by the Commission on Human Rights whereby the CHR urged stakeholders “to commit to building a toxic-free society for all” in line with the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).
SAICM is a global policy framework to promote chemical safety whose overall objective is that “by the year 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.”
“Five years since the CHR issued the said human rights agenda toward chemical safety, relevant policies, regulations and programs were put in place, including the phase-out of paints with lead additives, the prohibition on household pesticides containing chlorpyrifos and dichlorvos, and the implementation of the globally harmonized system of chemical classification and labeling. However, big gaps still remain as regards the fulfillment of the commission’s recommended actions,” Dizon said.
The group cited the following as examples of CHR recommendations that have yet to be met: 1) the enactment of laws that will increase the accountability of manufacturers from the production, reuse, recycling, and disposal of their commodities; 2) the establishment of a mandatory and publicly accessible Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs); 3) the adoption of alternative agricultural practices using natural and organic materials and processes; 4) the prevention of toxic trade and the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment; and 5) the active promotion of Zero Waste resource management.
As enunciated by the CHR, “the right of chemical safety encompasses broad and pressing aspects in people’s lives – food safety, consumer protection, proper waste management, occupational safety, chemical accidents and chemical exposure, among others.”
“Accordingly, a plethora of rights are involved, inter alia, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, right to healthy natural and working environments, maternal and child health, right to adequate standard of living, right to know, people participation, right to remedy, and ultimately, right to life.”
“Most affected vulnerable sectors of society are women of child-bearing age, children, elderly, indigenous peoples, farmers, workers, persons with disabilities, and persons with chemical sensitivities,” the CHR said.
As SAICM is to end next year, the EcoWaste Coalition urged government, industry and civil society stakeholders to participate in the ongoing global processes to ensure a stronger framework and plan of action for the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020.
In line with a resolution adopted by the second United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA), the group further urged the government to ensure the integration of the sound management of chemicals and waste in the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022.
UNEA had earlier called on member states “to reflect the sound management of chemicals and waste as a priority in their national sustainable development planning processes, poverty eradication strategies and relevant sector policies.”