Group to DENR: Implement pollution disclosure to save our rivers
ENVIRONMENTAL group Greenpeace today welcomed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) recent moves to address water pollution in the Philippines but said that the government agency must do more to save the country’s polluted water bodies.
Greenpeace said that the first step must be pollution disclosure, or mandatory reporting by factories about the chemical waste produced by their operations.
“Designating Water Management Quality Areas (WMQA) to some of the country’s rivers and waterways is a good move. But we need to see bigger steps in pollution prevention if the DENR is serious in fulfilling its mandate to keep our waterways clean,” said Abi Aguilar, Toxics Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
“We urge DENR Secretary Ramon Paje to immediately eliminate chemicals already identified as hazardous and implement pollution disclosure for companies that dump their wastes and by-products in our bodies of water,” she added.
Water pollution is one of the biggest problems affecting the Philippines. According to the DENR, as many as 50 of the 421 rivers in the country are already considered “biologically dead.” Biologically dead rivers no longer contain any oxygen and cannot support any but the hardiest kinds of species.
This situation has prompted the government agency to identify eight rivers as Water Quality Management Areas, in pursuant to the Clean Water Act of 2004– an important step in protecting river systems. Rivers under protection include the Sinocalan-Dagupan river system in Pangasinan, the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando river system and areas within the Laguna Lake Development Authority’s jurisdiction in Luzon, the Tigum-Aganan watershed and the Iloilo-Batiano river system in the Visayas, the Silway River and the Sarangani Bay in Mindanao, the San Juan River system in Metro Manila, and most recently, the Taguibo River in Agusan del Norte.
Greenpeace believed that the fact that these rivers were declared as WQMAs means that its present condition requires serious protection and management action by its local government and stakeholders.
Greenpeace has long called for the establishment of a Pollution Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) policy that would also give communities and other stakeholders the right to access information about these pollutants. PRTR policies have been instrumental in preventing pollution in countries like Japan, Australia and Canada. Currently, the DENR has no complete data on what chemicals factories are discharging into our rivers and lakes. Communities living around these bodies of water suffer because they do not know what chemicals are present in their locality, and how their water supply is slowly being contaminated.
“Now is the time for Secretary Paje to identify and investigate the pollution hotspots in our river systems. If a PRTR is in place, then industries/facilities would be more careful with their discharges into our waterways. This is an important first step in the elimination of hazardous chemicals in manufacturing operations and ensuring public safety,” Aguilar said.
In order to prevent toxic pollution in our water bodies, Greenpeace is demanding that the DENR:
a. – Expand the Priority Chemicals List (PCL) to include those that have already been identified to potentially affect human health and the environment;
b. – Speed up the elimination of priority hazardous chemicals with specific timelines;
c. – Immediately set up a PRTR so that the public can access data on pollution.
Greenpeace also called on the communities to be vigilant about the operations of the industries in their localities, to protect their own rivers, and to call on the government for better policies for cleaner and safer water.