Bearing a large yellow banner with the words “Right to Chemical Safety, Right to a Toxic-Free Future,” over one hundred members of the Coalition in magenta shirts marched from Quezon City Hall to the CHR headquarters along Commonwealth Avenue.
Actress and environmentalist Chin Chin Gutierrez pushed a “kariton” carrying a volunteer wearing a recycled paper globe depicting an ailing Mother Earth whose condition is worsened by the infusion of mock solution labelled “Toxic Chemicals Harm” held by fellow actor Roy Alvarez, the incumbent president of the EcoWaste Coalition.
The marchers presented CHR Chairperson Loretta Rosales with a letter exhorting the agency to issue a “Human Rights Advisory on Chemical Safety. The coalition called on the CHR to champion the unassailable right of every Filipino, including the unborn, to be protected against the risks and hazards caused by toxic chemicals throughout their life cycle.
“The EcoWaste Coalition believes that the CHR, as a national human rights institution, is in a unique position to push for reforms on how chemical safety should be approached in this country,” said Alvarez. “Many chemicals have now been linked to cancer and reproductive, birth and immune system defects. These are serious health issues that urgently need to be addressed.”
The group urged the CHR to underscore the following principles in the proposed chemical safety advisory: 1) precaution, 2) substitution, 3) no data, no market, 4) polluter pays, 5) public’s right to know, and 6) environmental justice.
The EcoWaste Coalition stressed that the Precautionary Principle (PP), a cornerstone of the environmental movement, must always apply. PP refers to the application of measures that can prevent or minimize potentially harmful effects of an activity on human or environmental health even if cause and effect relationships have not been fully scientifically established.
“We cannot afford to gamble with the lives of our people, especially those of future generations,” said Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, secretary of the EcoWaste Coalition. “As it stands, every child born from today will already carry a heavy burden of toxic chemicals in its body. How do we explain that to our children?”
The coalition also stressed that big business and industry should take responsibility for the safety of their products instead of passing the burden onto their consumers. As such, industries should only offer products that have been fully tested and proven safe and fully compliant with essential health and environmental requirements.
The group emphasized that mandatory labelling of chemical ingredients in products would be a strong first step towards educating people about the heath and environmental hazards that certain products may bring. It also pushed the CHR to make manufacturers fully responsible for their products from the point of creation up to the end of their products’ useful lives.
“The Filipino people have the right to know exactly what is being released into their environment,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).
“By making the right to chemical safety a basic human right, we stand a much better chance of ensuring that our people will be protected from the avarice of business-as-usual policies,” he added.
According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a global policy and strategy that the Philippines and other governments adopted in 2006, provides an excellent reference to the drafting of the proposed Human Rights Advisory.
When SAICM was adopted, the international community pledged to achieve “the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment.”
Today’s march for chemical safety drew the participation of representatives from EcoWaste Coalition partner groups such as the Advocates for Environment ang Social Justice, Alaga Lahat, Ang Nars, Arugaan, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Citizens’ Organization Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance –Philippines, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Institute for the Development of Educational and Ecological Alternatives, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Kupkop Kita Kabayan Foundation, Miriam PEACE, Nagkakaisang Mangangalahig sa Dumpsite Area, Philippine Cancer Institute, Samahang Pagkakaisa ng Tindera sa Talipapa, Sining Yapak and Zero Waste Philippines.
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