Philippine unions calls government to revive dying policies on asbestos

Published by rudy Date posted on April 28, 2011

ALU/TUCP/BWI News Release

Philippine unions calls government to revive dying policies on asbestos

28 April 2011, Quezon City –Trade unions called on Philippine government in today’s International Commemoration Day for the Dead and Injured Workers to revive its ineffective policies on asbestos by calling them to inspect public buildings and reduce hundreds of thousands of Filipino workers and their families’ exposure to asbestos dust.

For trade unions, 28 April every year is set aside to: commemorate those who have lost their lives and their health at or because of their work; raise awareness about the risk of disease, injury or death for workers in all sectors and countries; and engage all workers and unions in a positive action day for dialogue, transformation and progress on occupational health and safety.

With the theme “Unions Make Work and Communities Safer”, workers recognize and place significant emphasis on the role that trade unions play in improving occupational health and safety.

Call for pro-active government action

Deeply concerned over moribund government asbestos initiatives, the Associated Labor Unions, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines and Building and Woodworkers International’s (ALU-TUCP-BWI) made a ‘Call to Action on Asbestos’ statement calling for the:

a)             Building of National Asbestos Profile

b)            Effective system of inspection and enforcement of safety standards

c)             Safe demolition of buildings with asbestos

d)            Building a central registry and medical surveillance of exposed workers

e)            Safer substitutes for asbestos and alternatives for asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), and

f)              Bi-monthly consultation meetings for fast-tracking the development of NPEAD, a consensus policy document that outlines the magnitude of the problem and the strategies for elimination of asbestos-related diseases.

“Our workers and their families are exposed every day. Asbestos and asbestos containing materials and products stalk them wherever they are—in homes, schools, churches, and workplaces,” said Raymond Democrito Mendoza, TUCP-Party List representative and main author of House Bill 896 that seeks to ban the importation, manufacture, processing, use or distribution in commerce of asbestos and asbestos-containing products.

The one-page statement also calls for: (1) a comprehensive inspection of public buildings, schools, offices, churches, malls, and similar public structures for asbestos containing materials and asbestos dust, (2) apply all the necessary safety measures in handling identified structures with asbestos, and (3) set timetables for safe asbestos removal in risky buildings to mitigate the impact of Asbestos on exposed population.

Asbestos dusts are embedded in everyday materials found and used in buildings and houses. When inhaled through direct or secondary exposure, the dust fibers, each five thousandths smaller than hair, stick to the lungs and cause several diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis 10 to 30 years later.

Stressing the rationale for the call to action statement, Gerard Seno, Vice President of ALU, said: “The government  implementation of asbestos policies and measures is ineffective. It has to be radically strengthened,” said Seno, referring to the slow pace of the development of the NPEAD.

With a directive from the Office of the President, the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) chaired the inter-agency group who, with other stakeholders including the ALU-TUCP-BWI and the industry, began discussions in September 2009. The NPEAD process was to be implemented in three phases, but the process is stuck in the first phase without significant progress, noted Rafael Mapalo, TUCP Director of Education.

Copies of the unions’ Call to Action on Asbestos were handed over to officers of the OSHC, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Health (DOH), and the DOLE in Quezon City and Manila, after a candle lighting and prayer ceremonies held earlier today. ###

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