Quezon City. Public health and environmental justice groups and a staunch pro-environment lawmaker mark the 5th anniversary of a government policy that could make the Philippines potentially the first among the developing countries to eliminate highly toxic industrial chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The initiative has elicited the support of Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Chair of the Senate Committee on the Environment, who said that “the non-combustion treatment of our stockpiled PCBs is a strategic milestone in our quest to rid our nation of toxic health and environmental contaminants.”
“Let a PCBs-free Philippines be our shared gift to all Filipino children and youth of this generation and next. I commend the project participants from the public and private sectors, particularly the NGOs promoting the chemical safety agenda,” she stated.”
“The Philippines may be setting the pace in what we may consider as a vital step towards fulfilling our national and international obligations to protect our people and the environment from the hazards of PCBs,” said Rey Palacio of the EcoWaste Coalition. “We’ll be complying with our commitments much earlier than the rest of the world, provided we proceed as targeted under the Chemical Control Order (CCO) for PCBs,” he added.
The CCO for PCBs issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which took effect on March 19, 2004, requires the registration, labeling, safe handling, phase out and ban on the use or storage of PCBs in the country by 2014 or 11 years ahead of the global target.
Under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), governments have until 2025 to phase out PCBs-containing equipment such as transformers and capacitors. The Convention, which the Senate ratified in 2004, also gave governments another three years, or until 2028, to destroy the recovered PCBs.
Together with other public interest groups, the EcoWaste Coalition is supporting the implementation of the pioneering project that will help waste generators comply with the 2014 phase out target for PCBs by deploying in 2009 a safe, closed-loop, non-incineration technology for decontaminating PCBs-containing equipment and wastes.
“The adoption of a robust non-combustion technology to address our stockpiles of PCBs is consistent with the goals and requirements of the Clean Air Act, the Stockholm Convention and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, which all seek to prevent toxic chemicals from harming our bodies and the ecosystems,” said Manny Calonzo of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.
The EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA urged the DENR to complete the inventory of PCBs in the country and to ensure that the stockpiles are placed under strict control while awaiting operation of the non-combustion facility to avoid unsafe recycling and disposal.
As of January 2006, inventories show that the country has 6,879 tons of PCBs-containing equipment and wastes, comprising about 2,400 tons of PCBs oil. Much of these PCBs came from the power industry, owing to the chemicals’ usefulness as dielectric fluids in transformers and capacitors.
Last year, the government of the Philippines, with the support of the public and private sectors, launched the non-combustion project that will ensure the safe handling, environmentally-sound storage and effective destruction of PCBs in the country instead of sending them for incineration abroad.
The technology to be deployed would not be employing combustion; would be operating in closed system to prevent uncontrolled releases of dioxins and other chemicals of concern; and would be capable of achieving total destruction efficiency that approaches100%.
The DENR is the lead government agency in charge of the project, which is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
Corporate project partners include the Philippine National Oil Company – Alternative Fuels Corporation, as the operating entity for the non-combustion facility, and the Meralco, National Power Corporation, National Transmission Corporation and other power-related entities.
The EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, BAN Toxics, Health Care Without Harm, and Mother Earth Foundation are among the public interest non-government organizations participating in the project.
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