Philippine update: House Committee approves asbestos ban bills

Published by rudy Date posted on March 16, 2011

Manila, Philippines (16 March 2011) – The House of Representatives Committee on Ecology approved House Bill Nos. 479 and 896. The approval came after the bill authors agreed to an amendment addressing installed asbestos-containing materials in houses and buildings. A Technical Working Group (TWG) tasked to consolidate the bills would craft the amendment.

The amendment was proposed in reply to the question raised by Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez on what to do with asbestos installed in houses and buildings with the understanding that those structures would be demolished or asbestos materials be removed once a ban is implemented.

Sponsorships

In her sponsorship speech on HB No. 479, Akbayan Party-List Representative Kaka Bag-Ao urged the passage of the bill as the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) call for stopping the use of all types of asbestos as the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos related diseases. She said that in the Philippines, the 11th National Occupational Safety and Health Congress in October 2008 called for a total ban on asbestos.

In his sponsorship speech on HB No. 896, TUCP Party-List Representative Raymond Democrito Mendoza emphasized the urgency of banning asbestos. The three-year phase out period in the bill would give stakeholders time to switch to safer substitutes of asbestos and alternatives to asbestos-containing materials. A central registry would track exposed workers and determine their health situation through medical surveillance for early detection and treatment.

Representative Mendoza said that more than 50 countries with different levels of economic development have banned asbestos, including chrysotile. Canada, which is the source of 90% of Philippine asbestos imports, has virtually banned asbestos use within its territory and spending millions of dollars to replace asbestos containing materials in its parliament, schools and other buildings. Canada exports 95% of its mined chrysotile asbestos to developing countries such as the Philippines.

Resource persons

Engr. Ana Rivera from the Department of Health (DOH) echoed the position of the WHO on eliminating asbestos related diseases. She said the DOH would conduct training for physicians to enhance their capacity to diagnose asbestos related diseases and compile data when asked on the issue.

Ms. Emmanuelita Mendoza of the Department of Environment and Natural resources (DENR) expressed concerns for improvements of the bills but did not mention any objection to banning asbestos. Dr. Roger Berosil from Earthsavers Movement mentioned the strict limitations on using asbestos in Canada and the USA and compensating people with asbestos diseases in the USA.

No other persons or organizations shared their positions on the bills as the Committee moved to approve the same.

The legislative process

The process has just started. The Committee prepares a report on the bills. The report is read in open session, and together with the consolidated bill, it is referred to the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee calendars the bill for debate and amendment before being set for final passage.

The bill goes through the same process in the Senate. If the bills passed by the House and the Senate have conflicting provisions, a conference committee composed of representatives of each house is formed to harmonize the conflicting provisions. If the conflicting provisions are harmonized, a conference committee report is prepared for ratification or approval by both houses.

When the bill is passed by both houses, it is signed by their respective leaders and sent to the President for approval. The President may sign the bill into a law, or veto all or part of it. The bill becomes a law if, within 30 days after receiving it, the President fails to sign or veto the bill. The bill, even if vetoed by the President, also becomes a law when Congress overrides the veto by a 2/3 vote of all its Members.

The process may be long, but the campaign to ban asbestos in the Philippines continues.

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