Statement by Health and Environmental Alliance Against
Toxics on the Stockholm Convention's entry into force
The world has taken one more big step today in halting and reversing
the poisoning of global ecosystems and peoples. Philippines is
one of more than 50 countries that have agreed to be bound by
the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. This
is the first worldwide agreement aimed at stopping the production
and use of some of the world’s most toxic substances. The
convention officially comes into force on May the 17th, triggering
obligations on the part of the countries that belong to the convention.
It obliges countries to begin working toward ending the production
and use of the twelve chemicals listed under the convention: The
list includes pesticides such as aldrin, cholordane, DDT, dieldrin,
endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex and toxaphene. Industrial
chemicals in the list include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),
and unintended byproducts, which include dioxins, and furans.
These POPs are highly toxic, and persist in the environment, lasting
for years or even decades before degrading into less dangerous
forms. They evaporate and travel long distances through the air
and through water, and they accumulate in fatty tissue.
So this is a time to celebrate, secure in the knowledge that
better health and a better environment for all has not been bought
at the expense of poorer nations. However, we celebrate cautiously.
In the Philippines, high levels of pesticides remain at the former
US bases at Clark and Subic. No substantive effort has been made
by the government to make the US government accountable and clean
up the contaminated sites and get rid of stockpiles still remaining
and leaking to the environment, despite insistent lobbying by
many concerned groups including people’s organizations and
Meanwhile, power-generating companies store their PCB waste in
unsatisfactory conditions and many establishments still use PCB
containing electrical and other equipment, posing serious health
risks to workers and communities. Dioxins ad furans also continue
to be produced by a solid waste “pyrolysis” plant
which managed to get around the ban on incinerators. Many other
industrial and community sources of such highly pollutants continue
to be uncontrolled.
Hard as it has been to bring the countries of the world together
to act in their mutual best interest in getting rid of the toxic
chemicals named in the convention, there is still more hard work
to come. The Stockholm convention has set the stage for the next
part of the process: identifying and adding other chemicals to
the list of those to be eliminated. These chemicals have already
been banned in many countries, or are due to be phased out.
The Philippine government, in doing its part, must ensure the
enforcement of pesticide bans and promptly heed to calls for the
banning of pesticides proven deleterious to health and environment.
In the Philippines, endosulfan, a highly hazardous pesticide
known to have caused indisputable harm to many agricultural workers,
was banned and severely restricted 10 years ago. Yet Pesticide
Action Network Philippines continue to receive reports of its
use in the field, giving rise to suspicions of unabated smuggling.
Meanwhile, paraquat, which is banned in several developing countries
and recently, in our neighboring country, Malaysia, continues
to be rampantly used in the country. Syngenta holds intensive
farmer trainings for the pesticide’s use and even hosts
a television program aimed at promoting its products.
The Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and
Natural Resources and all agencies concerned with the regulation
of these chemicals, in fulfilling its obligations to the convention,
must now learn to use the iron fist against plantations and agrochemical
corporations raging against all efforts to control their dirty
So while we can all pat ourselves on the back today, and bask
in the feeling of having accomplished something, we must not be
complacent. For the Stockholm Convention to be effective, it must
be an active Convention, continually responding to the challenges
of a changing world. For that to happen, the government must understand
that we will continue to watch, and to push for them to ensure
that the good start made by this convention does not falter.