PNoy admin's environmental achievements recalled as group tips hat to late leader

Published June 25, 2021, 11:36 AM

by Ellson Quismorio

Environmental group EcoWaste Coaltion gave tribute to the late former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III by recalling the numerous gains that the country made on chemical and waste issues during his administration.

(Photo from EcoWaste Coalition)

“To celebrate his life, we find it fitting to bring to mind some of the major accomplishments of PNoy’s presidency that have helped in protecting our people’s health and the environment from chemicals and wastes,” EcoWaste Coalition National Coordinator Aileen Lucero said in a statement on Friday, June 25.

Aquino, the country’s 15th president, passed away Thursday at the age of 61. His tenure in Malacañang lasted from June 2010 to June 2016.

“To recall, the EcoWaste Coalition in 2010 put forward a ‘Citizens’ Agenda for Zero Waste and Chemical Safety’ and even staged a ‘People’s Walk’ before his inauguration displaying a huge yellow banner with the message ‘PNoy, protect us from toxic chemicals,'” the coalition said.

The group reckoned that Aquino’s biggest indirect contribution to the environment was his crusade to stamp out corruption in government, saying he “realiz[ed] perhaps that most of our environmental problems are rooted in fraudulent transactions and crooked practices in the management of our natural resources.”

EcoWaste Coalition compiled the Aquino administration’s most significant accomplishments on the environmental front per category:

On the zero waste movement: PNoy in 2014 signed Proclamation 760, which declared January as “Zero Waste Month.” This led to the annual conduct of activities celebrating the benefits of the zero waste approach over polluting and unsustainable “burn or bury” disposal methods.

On chemical safety: In 2014, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) adopted “The People’s Right to Chemical Safety: A Fifteen-Point Human Rights Agenda” espousing “health-based and human rights-based policies on chemicals” to safeguard the right of every Filipino, including those yet to be born, to be protected against hazardous substances.

On lead: While the issuance of a Chemical Control Order (CCO) to prevent and reduce harm from lead compounds has been in the works since 2005, it was during the Aquino presidency when the CCO banning lead in the production of all paints was deliberated and finally adopted in 2013, the group said. The CCO imposes a 90 parts per million (ppm) total lead content limit on lead for all paints, and provides for the phase-out of lead-containing paints and similar surface coatings.

On mercury: The Aquino administration actively participated in the mercury treaty negotiations leading to the government’s signing of the historic Minamata Convention on Mercury in October 2013. However, it was only ratified last year.

While it fell short in addressing much-needed reforms in the mining industry ardently sought by environmental and human rights advocates and affected communities, Executive Order (EO) 79 issued by Aquino in 2012 prohibited the use of mercury in small-scale mining. During Aquino’s term, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tested and subsequently banned over 100 brands of skin bleaching, lightening, or whitening cosmetics contaminated with mercury.

On phthalates in toys: While the government had acknowledged as early as 1999 that “phthalates may cause adverse health effects such as live and kidney wounds, reproductive abnormalities and immune system defects,” it was during the PNoy administration when the Department of Health (DOH) banned in 2011 six types of phthalates, a toxic plasticizer often used to soften PVC plastic toys.

On toy safety problems: Lawmakers took notice of the findings of the study conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition and International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) showing that 29 percent of the 200 toy samples procured in the local market were laden with antimony, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury above levels of concern.

Bills were filed at both houses of the 15th Congress, which were consolidated into Republic Act (RA) No.10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act, which PNoy signed in 2013 to protect children from unsafe toys through mandatory product safety labeling requirements. However, the implementing rules and regulations of the law were promulgated only in 2019 following a petition for a writ of mandamus filed in 2018 by the EcoWaste Coalition, Laban Konsyumer and 20 mothers yearning for safe toys for their children.

“The EcoWaste Coalition [thanks] PNoy for his service to the Filipino people, especially for helping advance the unfinished cause of zero waste and chemical safety during his administration,” the group said.