Threats to clean air law alarm green groups

Photo by Gigie Cruz-Sy / GAIA
Quezon City. Environmentalists today raise concerns about the proposals in congress to lift the ban on incineration.

“We are aghast that while the nation is supposed to be commemorating World Environment Month, certain forces from the House of Representatives are determined to annihilate the Clean Air Act of 1999,” said Aileen Lucero National Coordinator of waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition.

Tomorrow, June 9, the Committee on Ecology secretariat will submit its final report on the outcome of the technical working group on House Bill No. 3161 to its committee members. Dubbed as the Erice Bill, the proposal authored by Caloocan City Representative Edgar Erice seeks to lift the ban on waste incineration and, instead, finally allow burning of municipal, hazardous, and medical wastes, which was prohibited by the Clean Air Act or Republic Act 8749.

“The Erice bill manifests not only the short-sightedness but also the narrow-mindedness of our government officials in addressing our waste problems,” continued Lucero.

“What’s worse is that this bill gained support from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Solid Waste Management Commission, Metro Manila Development Authority, and Department of Health to name a few government agencies. Not a surprise but a disappointment nonetheless.” she added.

For his part, Paeng Lopez of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) said, “This bill like all other proposition to incinerate discards fails to recognize these resources as valuable assets that need only be reused, repurposed, recycled, repaired, or composted.”

“Burning them not only releases poisonous and toxic fumes in the process, which undermines the purposes of the clean air act, it also necessarily entails further extraction of new materials from our already dwindling natural resources. A very bad idea – more so at this era of changed climate,” he added.

Environmental Management Bureau Director Atty. Juan Miguel Cuna, during a presentation of the Air Quality Status Report for 2004-2012 showed that annual average national Total Suspended Particulate (TSP) trend did not meet the acceptable levels of annual air quality guideline value of 90 ug/Ncm as stated in the Clean Air Act. In NCR, 2012 TSP value is 119 ug/Ncm, way above the acceptable level.

“We don’t need to exacerbate the sad condition of our barely breathable air. We don’t need one more source of sickness disguised as solution to our waste problems. Let us defend the clean air act and demand to strengthen the ban on incineration.” Lopez added.

The group called on the public to demand our lawmakers to defend our air and to declare support to co-authors of the clean air act who are still serving in government. Already, they sent statement of support to honorable Representatives Aurora Cerilles, Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Cresente Paez, Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Harlin Abayon, Isidro Rodriguez Jr., Joaquin Chipeco Jr., Magtanggol Gunigundo I, Neptali Gonzales II, Rodolfo Albano III, and Rodolfo Farinas who co-authored the bill in 1999.

“Like these noble lawmakers who sought to protect the Filipino People from the harm of polluted air, we will defend the Clean Air Act with them until this Erice Bill gets retracted,” the group said.

Opposing Erice bill are Aksyon Klima, Ang NARS Partylist, Ateneo School of Government, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Mother Earth Foundation, November 17 Movement, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, and The Climate Reality Project Philippines.