Groups Ask: What is keeping the government from shipping out endosulfan?

Quezon City. This is a mind-boggling question for environmental health groups that have been monitoring the fate of some 10 metric tons of endosulfan, a highly toxic pesticide, that were salvaged from the submerged MV Princess of the Stars on October 5, 2008.

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN-Philippines), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and the EcoWaste Coalition expressed alarm over the long-drawn-out process of removing the toxic materials out of the country.

“Two years have already passed since the Del Monte-owned pesticide consignments were recovered from the sunken ship through a costly retrieval operations and we still see no light at the end of the tunnel,” observed Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We ask the authorities, particularly the lead agencies comprising the Task Force MV Princess of the Stars, to explain to the public the real score. What is really holding up the shipment of endosulfan, which is higly toxic for humans and wildlife, for environmentally-sound destruction abroad?” he added.

The groups point to Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Undersecretary Anneli Lontoc and Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) Director Norlito Gicana as the principal government officials in charge of implementing the decision of the Task Force to ship out the endosulfan for disposal.

The toxic materials have been sitting for months in a private warehouse in Meycauayan, Bulacan.

“Time is running out for endosulfan as governments, including the Philippines, take preventive and precautionary steps to ban this pesticide because of its toxicity and threats to human health and the environment,” said Dr. Romy Quijano, President, PAN-Philippines.

Sixty-nine countries have already taken action to ban endosulfan in the build up to the October 2010 meeting of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Review Committee.

“With the looming global ban under the Stockholm Convention, it makes sense for the Aquino government to conduct an immediate inventory of endosulfan stocks in the country and to ensure that these are stored in safe conditions and not arbitrarily disposed in unauthorized hazardous waste treatment plants and in cement kilns,” added Manny Calonzo, GAIA Co-Coordinator.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a temporary ban in February 2009 on the importation, distribution, and use of endosulfan “to protect the public and the environment from any undesirable risk hazards on its continued use.”

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Canada in August 2010 withdrew support for the use of endosulfan, citing the concern for workers’ safety, the risk posed to non-target organisms and persistence of endosulfan in the environment and the potential for bioaccumulation.

The US Environmental Protection Agency in June 2010 decided to end all uses of endosulfan after assessing that endosulfan “can pose unacceptable neurological and reproductive risks to farmworkers and wildlife and can persist in the environment.”