Press Release
September 4, 2008

Pia asks Task Force: "What's the disposal plan for endosulfan?"

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today called on the head of Task Force MV Princess of the Stars and newly-appointed Marina OIC Maria Elena Bautista to publicly disclose the government's comprehensive disposal plan for endosulfan and other toxic cargo that are set to be retrieved from the sunken vessel once salvaging operations start this week.

"The public has the right to know how the Task Force intends to dispose of these toxic materials, especially endosulfan, since this would involve risking the surrounding environment and communities," said Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.

The comprehensive disposal plan, she added, is being pushed by environmentalists led by the Ecowaste Coalition. It was also recommended by experts from the European Union and the United Nations who inspected the wreck site off Sibuyan Island, Romblon last month.

"We can ship back the 10 metric tons of endosulfan to its manufacturer, the Makteshim Agan of Israel, for proper disposal. I can't imagine having it buried in any of our landfills or incinerated here without risking an environmental disaster."

She added it might not be possible to bring the endosulfan to its intended destination—the vast pineapple plantations of Del Monte Philippines, Inc. in Bukidnon—since the provincial board has already passed Ordinance No.2008-022R last August seeking to prohibit the transport and use of the highly toxic pesticide or any of its derivatives within the province.

"The Task Force should seriously consider sending back the unwanted pesticides to its manufacturers in Israel in light of the decision of the people of Bukidnon to ban endosulfan," she stressed. "If Israel has the capability to produce such highly dangerous chemicals, then it must also have the capacity and technology to dispose of it properly."

"But first things first. I'm hoping that the endosulfan cargo has remained intact and has not leaked into the seawaters, and that all of it can be safely retrieved."

Finally, Cayetano hailed the Bukidnon ordinance as a landmark assertion of political will by the local government, even as she encouraged other provinces still allowing the pesticide to follow suit.

"In one decisive act, the Sangguninang Panlalawigan of Bukidnon did what the Fertilizers and Pesticides Authority (FPA) has pathetically failed to do in the last 15 years, which is to enforce its own recommendation to ban endosulfan. It's a shame that it even took a tragedy to make people realize that an anomaly was going on."

She cited research from her office which showed that the FPA had extended at least 12 times the exemption it granted to pineapple giants Del Monte and Dole Philippines Inc. as "institutional users" of endosulfan, even if the agency had resolved in 1993 to restrict and eventually ban the use of the controversial pesticide.

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