DENR unveils new project targeting pollution caused by open burning

QUEZON CITY, Oct. 17 -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday launched a new project aiming to reduce air pollution from open burning, which can cause serious health problems and damage the environment.

The project aims to showcase the best available techniques and environmental practices in open burning activities in response to the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

It will be implemented by DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and DENR Foreign Assisted and Special Projects Service (FASPS), along with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), under a USD1.512-million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

DENR Assistant Secretary and concurrent EMB Director Juan Miguel Cuna said the project is also being implemented in four other Asian countries, namely: Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia and Vietnam.

“This project launch reaffirms our support, on the national and regional levels, as well as our unrelenting strong partnership with UNIDO, to address the global problem on POPs and accelerate strategies to reduce them,” he said.

During the project launch, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed between EMB and General Santos City, one of the two pilot demonstration sites in the country. The other is Lapu Lapu City in Cebu province.

Cuna signed the MOA on behalf of the EMB, while city administrator Atty. Arnel Zapatos signed on behalf of the GenSan LGU.

Under the deal, the local government of GenSan agrees to ensure acceptance and support of the project by stakeholders through consultations, and take steps to prohibit open burning while shifting to recycling or reusing wastes that are commonly burned.

It also agrees to provide counterpart contributions in cash or kind and ensure the proper utilization of financial resources through ordinances.

GenSan will submit periodic reports to the EMB and UNIDO as part of regular coordination activities.

For its part, the EMB will assign coordinators and focal persons to provide technical assistance in the implementation of the project work plan.

The bureau will also coordinate with other agencies and institutions to support the project and perform periodic monitoring activities on the progress of the project.

Representatives from other national and local government agencies, such as the departments of Public Works and Highways, Agriculture, and Interior and Local Government were also present during the event. They are expected to become executing partners for the project.

The project will introduce globally recognized techniques and practices in creating resource-efficient waste management systems to cut POP emissions produced unintentionally and released into the atmosphere. It aims to reduce the POP release at the pilot sites by 90 percent.

It also aims for five major outcomes: to improve legislation specifically on introducing best available techniques (BAT) and best environmental practices (BEP) for open burning; strengthen the institution to implement BAT/BEP; demonstrate such practices in open burning sources; improve knowledge and understanding on BAT/BEP and connected risks; and establish a monitoring and evaluation system.

Open burning activities were found to be releasing toxic POPs like furan and dioxins. These activities include forest fires, burning of sugarcane and agricultural residues, as well as waste burning and accidental fires.

Inventories of participating countries have revealed that open burning accounts for more than one kilogram toxicity equivalent per year of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDFs) released into the environment.

These chemicals are considered “probable carcinogens” which can accumulate in fatty tissues in humans and lead to increased risk for tumors, diabetes and thyroid disorders. Other effects have also been noted on reproduction and sexual development, and the immune and nervous systems. (DENR)

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