Hailed as the citizens’ “Right to Ask, Right to Know” assembly, the event saw representatives from various groups and communities in Metro Manila and adjacent provinces joining up to demand public access to information that can facilitate safe and sound choices.
“We need to be better informed about chemicals that make up products and wastes that can pose considerable harm to health and life. Since such information is not readily available, we need to be inquisitive, ask probing questions and insist on chemical information as a basic entitlement,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“Companies should publicly disclose chemicals used in production processes, as well as pollutants released and transferred in the course of their operations. Information relevant to public health and the environment should not be treated as confidential,” he stated.
Dr. Suzette Lazo, Director of the Food and Drug Administration, in a message sent to the EcoWaste Coalition said: “It’s time to seriously build a culture of safety in our country. An essential component of this shift is ensuring the availability of truthful product information to help discerning citizens make informed choices.”
Speaking at the event, Dr. Lazo said: “We now understand the hazards of toxins in the environment such as lead in toys. It’s time that we work together to protect our people from these toxins. Our doors are open for communication and that’s why we’re here. We hear you.”
Department of Health Spokesperson Dr. Eric Tayag, who also graced the event, told the EcoWaste Coalition that “every time you release results of your chemical tests, you promote the safety of every Filipino and remind us of our responsibility that we should be doing. Groups like you lighten up our work load. Like you, I will ask for information and I will search for truth.”
To drive their call for public access to chemical information, participants formed themselves into a “human question mark” as a huge banner that says “right to ask, right to know for health, safety and justice” is unfurled.
The event also saw the launch of the EcoWaste Coalition’s latest advocacy poster “Got Toxins? Be Safe: Assert your Right to Ask, Right to Know.”
Together the participants recommended the following:
TO THE PUBLIC: demand access to information on chemicals in products and wastes, including their health and environmental effects, for informed choice and chemical safety.
TO THE GOVERNMENT: enforce rules that will require companies to test and identify chemicals they use and dispose of through accessbile and reliable public disclosure tools.
TO THE INDUSTRY: establish verifiable and publicly available inventory of chemical inputs to manufacturing and production processes, as well as by-product pollutants, consistent with corporate social responsibility and in service of the community right to know.
These recommendations are in line with the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a policy framework to foster the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle, the EcoWaste Coalition said.
Among those who took part in the event were the Advocates for Environment and Social Justice, Angkan ng Mandirigma, Ang Nars, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Diocese of Caloocan Ecology Ministry, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance –Philippines, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm, Malaya, Maskara-GSF, Miriam PEACE, Samahang Pagkakaisa ng Tindera sa Talipapa-Caloocan, SK Federation – Malabon and Zero Waste Philippines.
The “Right to Ask, Right to Know” assembly coincided with the national observance of the “Children’s Month” and the “Consumer Welfare Month” this October.