Senator Imee Marcos on Tuesday, January 8 appealed to hospitals, diagnostic centers, and other health facilities to observe the proper disposal of medical waste linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marcos made the appeal after eight children tested positive for COVID-19 after playing along the seaside of Virac, Catanduanes, where used syringes, face masks, antigen test kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), and vials of blood and urine samples were illegally dumped.
The municipal office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) found that a diagnostic center in Barangay Concepcion in Virac committed numerous violations of waste disposal protocols.
Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, requires local governments down to the barangay level to properly collect, recycle, or dispose of trash, especially hazardous medical waste.
Marcos, chairwoman of the Senate Economic Affairs committee, said that violators could face court cases and heavy penalties, according to the degree of the offense.
“Any person who violates Section 48, paragraphs 14 to 16, shall upon conviction be punished with a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P1 million,’’ she said.
Marcos stressed that imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years could come with the heavy fines.
The lady lawmaker warned the public, especially children, against picking up or playing with medical waste to avoid catching the COVID-19 virus.
Instead, the dumping of life-threatening medical waste should be reported to the authorities, the senator added.
Marcos cited that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) collects about 1,000 tons of medical waste from hospitals, laboratories and diagnostic centers each day.
Global analysis of health care waste by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that some 87,000 tons of PPE alone were produced and sold worldwide from March 2020 to November last year.