The EcoWaste Coalition made this appeal as the Supreme Court convenes a synchronized fora on April 16 and 17 in the cities of Baguio, Iloilo and Davao around the theme “Environmental Justice: Upholding the Right to a Balanced and Healthful Ecology.”
“While the Supreme Court last year designated 117 green courts, we have yet to see the slow wheels of environmental justice pick up the pace,” observed Romy Hidalgo, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“Illegal dumpsites refuse to shut down despite the ban under R.A. 9003, coercing politically and economically weak communities into becoming toxic sacrifice zones for the excesses of our throw-away society. A blatant case of environmental injustice,” he added.
R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which took effect in 2001, prohibits open dumping and has long directed the closure of open dumpsites in 2004 and that of controlled dumpsites in 2006.
The EcoWaste Coalition cited a fact sheet released by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in March 2009 revealing that 97.5 percent of the country’s waste disposal facilities are open dumpsites and that only 2,701 out of the 42,000 barangays are being serviced by materials recover facilities or MRFs.
“Another case in point is the less stringent implementation of the incineration ban under R.A. 8749 and R.A. 9003, thus allowing repackaged incinerators with fancy names to operate notwithstanding community assertion of their right to safety from toxic harm through the application of precaution,” added Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.
R.A. 8749 or the Clean Air Act bans the incineration of municipal, health care and industrial waste, which emits poisonous and toxic fumes, while R.A. 9003 requires the adoption of best practices in ecological waste management excluding incineration.
At the Baguio forum where over 15 of its members will attend, the EcoWaste Coalition would like to see an agreement being reached on the need for the green courts to prioritize precautionary measures over unacceptable risks, and the primacy of human and ecological health over corporate profit.
The EcoWaste Coalition deems it essential to instill the precautionary principle as a non-negotiable element of environmental justice, especially among the judges, prosecutors and enforcers.
This will involve all pillars of justice acting together to prevent serious or irreversible damage to public health and the environment, despite lack of scientific certainty.
Also, this will require the proponent of a project, rather than the community, to bear the burden of proof as to the safety and soundness of a project that can potentially lead to toxic harm or environmental degradation.
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