Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Groups Raise Alarm over Toxic Resettlement Area in Cabuyao, Laguna

Eco Waste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court, 26 Matalino St., Quezon City, Philippines
Phone: 9290376 Fax: 4364733

Groups Raise Alarm over Toxic Resettlement Area in Cabuyao, Laguna

15 August 2006, Quezon City. Environmental health groups have joined advocates for housing rights in questioning the relocation of Metro Manila railroad communities next to a six-hectare dumpsite in Cabuyao, Laguna, and urged the authorities to take action now to prevent a health disaster waiting to happen.

In a meeting yesterday with the representatives of the Urban Poor Southville Association, Inc. (UPSAI) and the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), public interest groups belonging to the Ecological Waste Coalition of the Philippines, Inc. (Ecowaste Coalition) expressed shock and dismay over what they described as "toxic relocation" under the controversial Northrail Southrail Linkage Project (NSLP).

"Being relocated in a place that is totally lacking in livelihood opportunities and basic services and which is adjacent to a waste dump is just inhumane. Vice-President Noli de Castro and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council could be at fault for exposing marginalized families to such deplorable conditions, not to mention, the contaminants from the nearby dump. Children and developing fetuses are most vulnerable to these toxic substances,” said the Ecowaste Coalition.

Adding that “the government needs to take action now to stop the source of chemical risks in Southville and to find safe alternative sites that can provide relocatees with healthy living conditions and jobs."

The concerns of the relocatees about the dump pollution are not without basis. From dawn to dusk, residents have to bear the nauseating foul smell coming from the 8-year old dump. They complain of respiratory ailments, which might be traced to the airborne pollution emanating from the dumpsite. They also fear that harmful bacteria and chemicals from the leachate and surface runoff are being dispersed throughout the neighborhood via floodwaters due to poor drainage.

Records from the Philippine Export Processing Zone (PEZA) show that 33 registered residual waste haulers, mostly from Batangas and Laguna, bring their collected wastes to the Hain’s Controlled Dump Facility in Barangay Niugan, Cabuyao. This dump should have ceased operations on 16 February 2006 under R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. However, it was only on 9 March 2006 that the Severino B. Hain Enterprises, dump owner and operator, obtained the “authority to close” from the DENR Environmental Management Bureau (Calabarzon Region).

Studies in Canada and USA have shown that living near municipal dumps or landfills involved an increased incidence of cancer, including lung, bladder, liver, stomach, breast, cervix and prostate cancers. One study by the New York State Department of Health showed that women living near solid waste facilities where gas is escaping have a four-fold increased chance of leukemia or bladder cancer.

A literature review in 1998 of various studies in the USA indicated that women living near municipal waste disposal sites showed increased risk of infants with birth defects such as eye/ear anomalies, chromosome abnormalities, and heart and neural tube defects.

In the Philippines, Catholic nuns running a health clinic at the Payatas dump reported that in 1995-96 three infants were born with imperforate anuses and about 10 cases of children with cerebral palsy out of 600 families living within the 0.5 km of the infamous dump.

Among the known toxic substances emitted from dumps or landfills are benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, methylene chloride, dichloro methane, carbon tetrachloride, and carbon monoxide. Open burning also released volatized heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins and furans. Exposure to these toxic chemicals is a known factor in the development of cancer, chronic diseases and birth defects.

Housing rights advocates decried the failure of both Northrail and Southrail projects to provide relocatees with access to essential services as required by R.A. 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act, notably the lack of access to potable water, electricity, sewerage facility, waste disposal, and transportation.

Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales has appealed to Vice-President Noli de Castro to delay the relocation until the unfinished work in the Cabuyao relocation site is completed, and proposed finding in-city relocation places for the railroad evictees.

For more information, please contact the Ecowaste Coalition at 9290376 or the Urban Poor Associates at 4264118.

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