Toxic Waste Victims Launch Cyberaction for a Toxic-Free Future

Press release - December 3, 2000
Families and friends of U.S. military toxic waste victims trooped to the Madapdap Resettlement Center in Mabalacat, Pampanga, to become "cyberactivists" for a day and lobby an international conference on the other side of the globe. The "cyberaction" is in conjunction with the Fifth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC5) on the Phaseout of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which will take place from December 4-9,2000 in Johannesburg, held under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Families and friends of U.S. military toxic waste victims trooped to the Madapdap Resettlement Center in Mabalacat, Pampanga, to become "cyberactivists" for a day and lobby an international conference on the other side of the globe. The "cyberaction" is in conjunction with the Fifth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC5) on the Phaseout of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which will take place from December 4-9,2000 in Johannesburg, held under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

They excitedly keyed-in their names to the "Cyberpetition for a Toxic Free Future" that was transmitted electronically to South Africa, via the Internet, joining other victim communities of toxic pollution in similar activities organized by Greenpeace offices in Argentina, Brazil, China (Hong Kong), Japan, Lebanon, Thailand, Turkey, and the United States.

"We want the delegates of the INC 5 to know that we are closely watching the developments of the conference. We refuse to be meek victims, instead we raise our voices to rid the planet of the curse of toxic pollution", said Myrla Baldonado, Executive Director of the PTFBCU. "They must remember that the tragedy of toxic contamination faced by victim communities everyday, is the most compelling reason why a strong treaty should be ratified now", Baldonado added.

The meeting is expected to ratify a treaty that would ban the production of 12 toxic chemicals included in the UNEP priority list. The list includes organochlorine pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, DDT, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, toxaphene), industrial chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls and hexachlorobenzene) and industrial by-products (dioxins and furans).

Many of these chemicals were found in the former Clark Air Base, and suspected to have contaminated water supplies in areas used as temporary shelter for communities affected by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. Scores of former residents, particularly children who were conceived or born in the former air base, have been afflicted by various congenital ailments believed to have been caused by the toxic contamination.

The draft treaty likewise provides measures for an inventory of stockpiles and sites contaminated by these chemicals, and sets out plans for clean-up and compensation for victims. If ratified, the treaty will provide a glimmer of hope for the victims of military toxic wastes, who until now have relied mainly on privately- supported initiatives such as the Lingap Clark program being run by the People's Task Force for Bases Clean Up.

"A global treaty on POPs will provide a valuable legal framework for the clean-up of the former U.S. military bases. It likewise affirms the wisdom of the ban on incineration, as provided for in the Clean Air Act. More importantly, it is a clarion call for a global shift to clean production processes in both agriculture and industry", stated Francis Dela Cruz, Greenpeace- Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner.

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