UNIDO top exec visits toxic chemical destruction facility in Bataan

The top official of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has visited a state-of-the-art facility in Bataan province where the country’s stockpile of toxic industrial chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is being destroyed.

UNIDO Director General Li Yong was welcomed and assisted by officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) led by Undersecretary for Attached Agencies Sherwin Rigor during his visit to the non-combustion (NonCom) destruction facility for persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs, last weekend.

The facility is located inside the petrochemical plant of the Philippine National Oil Company-Alternative Fuels Corp. in Mariveles town. It is operated by the Natural Resources Development Corp. (NRDC), the DENR’s corporate arm.

Li congratulated the Philippines for having the NonCom POP facility, which he cited as “one of the examples of best practices in environmental protection.”

The NonCom POPs is a UN-assisted project that aims to assist the country in eliminating its stockpile of POPs, which are chemicals targeted for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention to protect human health and the environment from their harmful impacts.

The project involves the deployment and operation of a commercially available, safe and proven non-combustion technology for managing PCBs. The DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) is in charge of overall project management,

A specialized UN agency that promotes industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability, the Vienna-based UNIDO is the implementing international agency for the project.

“What UNIDO is doing is really to support the people in this country and support the government to move ahead with environmental strategies,” Li said.

“I am happy that we have done something, not that great, but meaningful to this country and the people of the Philippines,” he added.

EMB Region 3 Director Lormelyn Claudio, for her part, vowed that her office—together with local government units and other stakeholders—will closely monitor the operations of the facility.

“Baseline monitoring is conducted on the facility to ensure that its operation has no adverse effect on the environment, particularly on the ground water, soil and air,” Claudio said.

The project enjoys the support of the community, the civil society and non-government organizations, such as the EcoWaste Coalition.

PCBs are largely found on old electric transformers contaminated with PCB which come from the power generating industry. These are brought to the facility through a transporter accredited by the EMB.

The Stockholm Convention on POPs is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of POPs.

Adopted in 2001, the Convention entered into force in 2004, the same year it was ratified by the Philippines. It requires the parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.

Specific effects of POPs include cancer, allergies and hypersensitivity, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, reproductive disorders, and disruption of the immune system. ### 

CIMATU TO YOUTH: DITCH PLASTIC, HELP SAVE SARANGANI BAY

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu rallied the youth and the people of Mindanao to help the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in environmental protection at the Mindanao launch of ‘Tayo ang Kalikasan,’ the DENR-led citizens’ movement for environmental stewardship and sustainable development.

Speaking in General Santos City, near Sarangani Bay, Cimatu said that ordinary citizens can help protect the environment through humble means, like proper solid waste management.

“We can prevent more plastic from reaching the seas and mountains by segregating our waste properly, reducing usage of plastic, relying on reusable containers, and practicing recycling,” Cimatu said.

Speaking to students at the launch, Cimatu said: “bilang mga kabataan, siguraduhin nating huwag tayong magkalat sa kung saan-saan. Clean as you go. At pag may mga kaibigan kayo na nakitang nagkakalat, sabihan ninyo sila na maging responsable sa pagtatapon ng basura.”

Cimatu emphasized that environmental protection is the duty of each and every Filipino, as part of their responsibility as stewards of the country’s natural resources.

“This is our Sarangani Bay, our Mount Apo, our Siargao. These are our farmlands, forests, cities, communities, rivers, lakes, and seas,” Cimatu said.

“This is our Mindanao, our land of promise. No one else but us will care for our natural resources. We should take the lead in protecting and using our natural resources responsibly. Tayo ang kumilos para protektahan ito,” he added.

Cimatu, moreover, recognized the efforts of DENR SOCCSKARGEN (Region XII) in managing the natural resources of the Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape.

“It is good that the beaches here in Sarangani are still in good condition. I hope you will not let environmental degradation set in, like what happened in Boracay,” he said.

Tayo ang Kalikasan is the DENR’s advocacy and social mobilization task force aiming to spur Filipinos to do their part in environmental protection. Tayo ang Kalikasan also aims to document the best practices of individuals, communities, local governments, and organizations on responsible land use, environmental protection, solid waste management, and ecotourism, among others.

During the launch, a number of local governments and organizations involved in these initiatives had set up exhibits showcasing their products -- from organic tablea chocolate by a group of community-based forest management agreement holders, to artworks made of recycled plastic -- as well as ecotourism services. ### 

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