Groups Push for Zero Budget for Rusting Incinerators

Quezon City. The Philippines could get its children out of waste dumps and into schools with the almost P100 million that would be saved if Congress denies the budget allocation for useless medical waste incinerators.

The Stop Toxic Debt (STD) campaign led by the EcoWaste Coalition and the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) underscored this glaring fact as Congress resumes deliberations on the proposed P1.4 trillion General Appropriations Act for 2009.

To put their message across, STD partners from various community and environmental groups assembled in front of the Philippine Heart Center and unveiled a huge banner calling for “Zero Budget for Incinerators.” Youth members of the Malayang Sining Community Theater (Mascomthea) highlighted the action as they mimed and strutted with brightly-painted faces bearing the word “zero.”

“The ongoing budget deliberations offer our lawmakers the chance to correct a toxic blunder that saw polluting incinerators being shipped and dumped into the Philippines, adding to our nation’s pollution and debt woes,” Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) said. “Strike out the incinerator loan repayment and use the money to support alternative livelihood for adults and kids who scour the dumps and bins for recyclables and even food,” he proposed.

There are some 150,000 waste pickers in Metro Manila, including children who should be in schools. A 2004 study by the EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA shows that child waste pickers are most vulnerable to harm from repeated exposure to toxic chemicals and occupational health risks.

“It’s outrageous that taxpayer’s money is being spent on junk, instead of helping meet the essential needs of Filipinos. There is just no way that this immoral and anomalous deal can be justified. We urge the Philippine and Austrian governments to do the right thing and revoke this unconscionable wasting of resources,” Von Hernandez of Greenpeace Southeast Asia stated.

The P503.65-million “Austria Medical Waste Project” loan agreement between the governments of Austria and the Philippines was signed in 1996 during the administration of then President Fidel V. Ramos, “to improve the sanitary situation in hospitals.”

The project included the shipment and installation of medical waste incinerators and disinfection units for 26 government hospitals. Subsequent testing found these incinerators extremely polluting and exceeding national as well as international standards for major pollutants such as dioxin, the most notorious byproduct of waste incineration.

The incinerators were later decommissioned in 2003 with the mandated phase out of waste incinerators for replacement with environmentally-sound and safe non-burn technologies under the Clean Air Act. A report released in 2007 by the EcoWaste Coalition and Health Care Without Harm confirms that recipient hospitals have either decommissioned or dismantled their

The loan financed by the Bank Austria was to be paid in 24 semi-annual payments. To date, the Philippines has paid over $14-million for the principal amortization and interest payment of 4% per annum. By the time the loan matures in 2014, the Philippines will have paid a whopping $26-million for the package originally priced at P503.65 million.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St. Quezon City, Philippines
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