'Zombies' storm DENR, demand clean water

"Zombies" stormed the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources on Thursday to protest perceived government inaction against pollutants being dumped in the country's rivers.

Environmental activist group Greenpeace, which held the "zombie" attack, also delivered a petition urging DENR to implement
a registry of pollutants being dumped into Philippine waterways and to control and regulate the disposal of more harmful chemicals.

"Unlike zombies which are plain make-believe, poisons in our water pose a real threat and need government’s urgent attention and action. The DENR’s lax behaviour on hazardous chemicals that are released into the environment is killing our waters and jeopardizing our own survival," Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia,said.

According to a study of pollution in Laguna Lake that Greenpeace released earlier this year, some factories in the area dumped chemicals like chromium, zinc, copper, and nickel into the water.

"Greenpeace laments that the DENR, the agency who holds the mandate on matters relating to environmental protection and toxics pollution, has not been vigilant in monitoring hazardous chemicals in order to prevent their entry into our water systems," Baconguis said.

One way of doing this is by establishing a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register, an inventory of potentially hazardous chemicals that factories may be releasing into the environment. The PRTR should also include information on how pollutants are disposed of. These should be made available to the public, Greenpeace said.

"The existence of a PRTR can serve as a major driving force for pollution reduction throughout many sectors of the economy. The dissemination of PRTR data can also enable similar industries to benchmark their environmental performance with other companies in the sector and to reduce releases, thereby saving money," Greenpeace said on its Project Clean Water website.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed a bill to create a PRTR in 2011 but it is still pending with the Senate environment committee. There is no counterpart bill at the House of Representatives.

Greenpeace said DENR must also expand its list of controlled chemicals. It said that in the 20 years since the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act was passed into law, the DENR has only issued chemical control orders--or guidelines on the import, use, and disposal--of five chemicals.

Mercury, asbestos, cyanide, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and ozone-depleting substances (ODS) are under CCOs.

"It is obvious the government has failed to protect us from toxic contamination. Worse, they keep us in the dark about these pollutants," Greenpeace said.
(Text by Jonathan de Santos)