November 15, 2018

Workers' group re-files bill protecting construction workers, communities from asbestos dust

MANILA — Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), the biggest labor federation in the country, re-filed in the House of Representatives a bill banning importation, manufacture, process, use and commercial distribution of deadly asbestos and asbestos-containing products in the country to protect construction workers and communities from developing asbestos-related diseases.

“The problem with asbestos is that once workers are exposed to its dust, symptoms of the diseases related to it will manifest 10 to 15 years later. Banning asbestos is the way to go if we want to protect our workers and the general population from first-hand and secondary exposure,” said Gerard Seno, executive vice president of ALU-TUCP.

He also serves as program coordinator of the ban asbestos advocacy campaign in the country.

ALU-TUCP partners with Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) in the trade union lobby for approval of the bill.

Filed in two previous congresses, the bill is now known as House Bill 2638.

It was introduced by TUCP party list Rep. Raymond Mendoza.

The ban takes effect one year after the proposed bill is enacted into law, giving government agencies the necessary period of transition.

While it seeks total ban, the proposal allows the health and defense departments to give exemptions on some selected uses of asbestos upon filing of petition for exemption for a specific period as long as these would not injure public health or the environment and if there is no alternative to it.

It also calls on building owners and contractors to demolish buildings containing asbestos then transport and dispose the acummulated materials using standard safety protocols.

Once enacted, violators of the law will be fined P100,000 to P 1 million or meted imprisonment of not less than three months but not more than three years.

It provides for a central registry of workers exposed to asbestos and calls for an establishment of an asbestos-related disease research and treatment network to support detection, prevention, treatment and cure of asbestos-related diseases with emphasis on mesothelioma.

“Asbestos dust killed thousands of workers and other members of communities here and around the world several years after they were directly and indirectly exposed to the material. There are thousands more who are currently wasting away from pain and consumed by misery caused by asbestos-related cancers and other diseases due to exposure. Many of them used their retirement pay and pension benefits in medication to treat their asbestos-related diseases. This legislative proposal will put an end to this vicious cycle,” Mendoza said.

In the Philippines, an estimated 1.3 million workers in construction and general industry are significantly exposed to asbestos dust every day.

Heaviest exposure happens at removal of asbestos during renovation or demolition of buildings and structures.

Government issued the Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Asbestos in 2000 to regulate importation, use, manufacture, transport and disposal of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials after a screening program in 1992 to 1996 by Lung Center of the Philippines found more than half of 1,542 shipyard workers in Subic Naval Base in Zambales contracted asbestos-related cancers and other diseases amid exposure to asbestos-laden materials.

The ban bill was introduced in the light of poor enforcement of the CCO.

Though it limits use of asbestos on several items and prohibits new uses and application of asbestos, the CCO does not have the teeth to hold violators accountable.

World Health Organization said all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic.

It said about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace and some 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.(PNA)


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Workers' group re-files bill protecting construction workers, communities from asbestos dust

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