Architects urge search for alternatives to asbestos-laden materials

Published by rudy Date posted on October 29, 2001

The influential United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) has urged all its 12,000 strong members and all sectors to find and use “viable alternative construction materials and products — if the use of asbestors and asbestos-containing materials cannot be made safe.”

In a resolution signed at the recent “Balangkasan Forum” held the other day in Quezon City, the architects pointed out: “It is a proven fact that exposure to asbestos is harmful to the human body, particularly in cases of prolonged exposure to asbestos or asbestos- containing materials (ACMs).”

The resolution served as a fitting conclusion to a forum featuring as principal discussants Undersecretary of Trade Adrian Cristobal Jr. (represented by Bureau of Product Standards Director Jesus Motoomull), former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Perfecto R. Yasay Jr., and James Hardie Philippines president John Balass. The UAP was represented by Architect Armin Sarthou, national executive vice president.

The forum was organized by the UAP in cooperation with UAP District A-4 headed by Virgilio Andres and UAP Elliptical Chapter led by Virgilio Regala, and was dubbed “Ensuring an Asbestos-Free Environment.” Architect Michael Tomeldan, Balangkasan Committee chairman said the symposium was “organized to promote consumer awareness of the wide range of issues surrounding asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) and the risks these product pose.”

In the same resolution, the UAP said it would spearhead a public information campaign for the construction industry sector. “We will exert serious effort and enlist the support of tri-media in making the general public aware of the health hazards relative to exposure to asbestos and ACMs, where such an exposure may occur and which sectors are at risk.”

“There is a definite need to educate and/or inform the general public about the existence, types and forms of asbestos and ACMs around us and of the real danger of coming into regular contact with it,” the UAP stated.

The UAP noted that there is an “existing law (Toxic Substances Act of 1990 or RA 6969) and as standing Department Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2000-02 (Asbestos Chemical Control Order),” but added that it would urge the “government to implement existing laws and standing orders to regulate and to make safe the use of asbestos and ACMs; and failing that, “to identify and promote viable alternatives.”

Tomeldan said the forum gave the UAP the opportunity to note existing laws and regulations and to determine whether these provide adequate protection for the health and safety of Filipinos, pointing out that “architects should be fully informed about the risks posed by certain construction materials before we even recommend their use.”

Balangkasan participants discussed the need to use alternative products already existing in the market. They suggest that increased effort be made to develop substitutes for asbestos, so that the country will be “truly free from harmful substances that poison our bodies and the people’s well being.”

It will be recalled that the call to hold a serious discussion on the asbestos issue was first voiced by Andres Jr. and Regala, Jr. following published reports that the cause-oriented Foundation for National Development (FND) had written the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) inquiring about the status of a draft Chemical Control Order totally banning asbestos from the local market — in view of medical studies and research that show asbestos can cause cancer and other lung ailments.

This concern was echoed by Yasay who noted the “surreptitious reentry of asbestos into the country” and called for government, civil society, business and consumers to be more vigilant, warning the public against the use of harmful construction materials and other products with asbestos. –

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