Mobilization in the Philippines
Industry stakeholders are losing ground in the asbestos debate in the Philippines as a result of actions taken by various sectors of civil society. On April 20, 2009, civic officials from Benguet, 348 km north of Manila, launched a lawsuit against the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation for its secret dumping of six truckloads of asbestos-containing debris in the village of Barangay Sapid in 2007.1 Mankayan town Mayor, Manalo B. Galuten, who had samples of the waste tested in New Zealand, confirmed it contained 10% amosite asbestos. A civic resolution was passed which ordered the company to undertake remediation of the affected site located in the region of Sitio Sapid under a carefully controlled toxic waste plan. Administrative and criminal charges are being brought against the corporation and its employees.
At the beginning of July 2009, a bill calling for a ban on the import, manufacture, processing, use and distribution of asbestos, as well as other measures to safeguard occupational and public health, was filed in Congress.2 House Bill 6544 the Ban Asbestos Act of 2009 was sponsored by Philippines Representative Raymond C. Mendoza who wants the Department of Health to conduct a study on asbestos.
The following month, a media storm blew up over asbestos exposures being experienced by workers at the redundant Manila Thermal Power Plant in Isla de Provisor in Paco who were engaged in asbestos removal work without health and safety protection.3 Hundreds of metric tons of asbestos-containing products were being removed from the plant's boilers and pipework prior to demolition by the site's new owners Gagasan Steel. Ernesto Herrera, General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, confirmed reports that ordinary workers were doing asbestos removal work with no training and no safety equipment. He said that: Asbestos is treated as ordinary waste and asbestos dust is allowed to be airborne, both of which are illegal. The resulting contamination not only endangers the workers: There is, says US asbestos expert Dr. Barry Castleman a serious threat to the family members of the workers, from take-home asbestos dust. This scandal has led led to union demands for government action.
August 29, 2009
1Allegre A. Mankayan Readies Suit VS Lepanto for Dumping Cancer-causing Asbestos in Landfill. April 20, 2009.
2 Natavio JT. TUCP Party List representative files bill in Congress banning asbestos. July 10, 2009.
3 Media Advisory. ALU/TUCP concerned that asbestos puts workers at risk at Manila Thermal Power Plant. August 4, 2009.
For footage of this the working conditions at the Manila plant see: http://www.youtube.com/mtppkadire