African groups push for endosulfan ban in Philippines

TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — Civil society groups meeting in Durban, South Africa, for a conference on waste backed calls for the Philippines to ban endosulfan, the EcoWaste Coalition said on Wednesday.

The groups drafted an open letter pushing for the adoption of agro-ecological and equitable practices that would cut farm dependence on toxic chemical inputs, EcoWaste national coordinator Manny Calonzo said in a statement.

The groups from eight African countries have been meeting in Durban to discuss waste, incineration and toxic chemical issues, he said.

Quoting from the letter, Calonzo said the groups expressed dismay over the discovery of a 10-metric ton shipment of endosulfan in the M/V Princess of the Stars, which sank off Sibuyan island on June 21 at the height of a typhoon.

The discovery of the toxic cargo halted the search and retrieval operations for the dead and missing passengers, and prompted the government to suspend fishing in waters around the island.

“Coming from countries that are still struggling with the toxic legacy of obsolete pesticides in our communities, we could not help but seriously question why endosulfan, a neuro-toxic organochlorine pesticide, was allowed to be used in the Philippines and even shipped through a vessel carrying humans,” Dr. Paul Saoke of the Physicians for Social Responsibility-Kenya, said in the statement e-mailed by EcoWaste.

Calonzo said that Hemsing Hurrynag, a member of the Global Alliance of Incinerator Alternatives steering committee, asked the Philippine government to ban endosulfan “without exemption.”

The discovery of the shipment has brought to light the continued use of endosulfan pesticide in fruit plantations in the country.

Sulpicio Lines Inc., owner of the ill-fated ferry, has sued Del Monte Philippines for shipping the cargo without disclosing its toxic nature.

“Our policy makers and regulators, we hope, will heed this latest appeal for a total ban on endosulfan to prevent local and global damage to health and our fragile ecosystems,” Calonzo said.

Joey Papa, president of Bangon Kalikasan (Rise Nature) Movement, pressed the government to ban all toxic chemical inputs to agriculture, including endosulfan.

“It should ban the use of all toxic chemical inputs to agriculture. If endosulfan is not allowed for paddy rice culture, why allow it for pineapple plantations? The precautionary principle must prevail above business considerations,” Papa said in a statement.

Since endosulfan is highly toxic to humans, wildlife and the environment, 55 countries have banned the chemicals while others have restricted its use, according to Calonzo.

Responding to the Sulpicio suit, Del Monte Philippines said on Wednesday that warning signs signifying that the endosulfan shipment consisted of toxic substances were all over the container van as well as the documents submitted to ferry owner.

Del Monte general manager Cito Alejandro said the company had not misdeclared the cargo. He said Del Monte would counter charges against Sulpicio Lines for its allegations against the food manufacturer.(PDI)

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