Press Release
November 30, 2006

Cayetano not inclined to vote for JPEPA,
warns against 'E-waste' dumping

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is not inclined to vote for the ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) because of the agreement's possible deleterious effects on public health and the environment.

"In the absence of a thorough assessment of the health, environmental and social costs of JPEPA, it wouldn't be correct to conclude that the agreement would genuinely benefit our country and people," said Cayetano, who chairs the senate committees on environment and health.

She said that based on the testimonies of government officials at the Senate hearings on the controversial agreement, no effort has been exerted by the Executive Branch to study the health and environmental impact of imposing zero tariffs on so-called 'recyclable' goods.

Cayetano particularly warned against the deluge of electronic waste or 'e-waste,' considering that the Philippines had long been the recipient of "reconditioned" electronic products from Japan which are either sold cheap in second-hand appliance stores, or end up in junk shops where these are broken up to retrieve reusable materials like copper wires.

She said 'e-waste' is already classified as "hazardous waste" under the Basel Convention and the United Nations Treaty on Hazardous Waste since many of these gadgets have been found to contain toxins.

Citing studies by non-government organizations like the Basel Action Network and Greenpeace, she said the recycling of e-waste using unsophisticated methods could cause the release of harmful materials like cadmium, lead, mercury and other heavy metals.

The studies were presented to Cayetano and other senators at a recent senate forum on JPEPA and waste trade.

"The burning of electronic gadgets at open-air dumps have been known to cause the release of toxic fumes and the leaching of harmful chemicals like mercury into the surrounding soil," she pointed out. "This endangers the health of recycling shop workers and the immediate community."

She also pointed to efforts by Japan to put up a network of so-called "International Recycling Zones" around Asia, apparently to facilitate freer trade of e-waste to poor countries where monitoring and enforcement of environmental laws is weak.

"I reiterate that I am against any agreement that provides for our country accepting waste products for the primary reason that we cannot even manage our own waste at this time," she concluded, even as she cited a recent incident where chemical wastes were dumped into a river in Marilao, Bulacan.

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