Update on Bills Banning Asbestos in the Philippines
There continues to be significant progress in the worldwide movement to finally ban the use of asbestos. Two weeks ago, the Philippine House of Representatives (the Lower House of the Philippine Congress) took a giant step forward towards a nationwide ban on asbestos use.
On September 10, 2009, the House Committee on Health approved the consolidation of three bills banning the importation, manufacture, processing, use, or distribution in commerce of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in a hearing held on September 9, 2009.
A Technical Working Group was tasked to consolidate the three bills. The Committee approved a motion to list the Representatives present at the hearing as co-authors of the consolidated bill. The Committee Chair stated that the consolidated bill would be approved by the end of the month.
In his sponsorship speech, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Partylist Representative Raymond Democrito Mendoza, author of one of the bills, urged the passage of a law banning asbestos to protect workers, their families, and the public against the hazards of asbestos.
The Department of Health (DOH) expressed support for the passage of the bills, in line with the ILO and WHO position that the best way to eliminate asbestos related diseases is to cease asbestos use. The President of the Philippine College of Occupational Medicine lauded the House of Representatives for its initiative and expressed support for the ban of asbestos in the Philippines.
The TUCP presented a position paper on the issue in cooperation with the ALU/BWI Ban Asbestos Campaign. Another labor organization — the Philippine Seafarers Union – supported the TUCP position.
The issue of alternatives and their costs was raised. DOH mentioned some alternatives and said that asbestos may seem cheaper, but is more expensive in the long run because of high costs of asbestos-related diseases.
We congratulate the Filipino people on this great step forward and hope this legislation will rapidly move through the Philippine Congress toward final enactment. We can only hope that our Congress will take similar steps this year and present our President with a meaningful piece of legislation that he can sign.