Non-profit environmental group EcoWaste Coalition is asking the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cancel the advisory allowing the use of incinerators and crematories on COVID-19 healthcare waste.
The group claims the use of the said methods will have hazardous effects on the environment and are “not aligned” with the environmental laws, specifically Republic Act 8749, or the Clean Air Act, and Presidential Decree 856, or the Code on Sanitation of the Philippines, stated in a letter the group sent to the DENR as reported by Inquirer.
EcoWaste was referring to the advisory Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) issued on March 26.
The group noted that the incinerators for biomedical waste were phased out in 2003, following the Clean Air Act. The phased out incinerators included the “state of the art” incinerators in government hospitals that were found to emit pollutants way above the standards set by the DENR.
The EcoWaste Coalition also highlighted the Department of Health’s (DOH) Health Care Waste Management Manual, stating “incineration used to be the method of choice in treating healthcare waste. However, with the implementation of the Clean Air Act of 1999, the use of this method is no longer allowed.”
“The DOH manual does not make any reference to ‘thermal treatment by incineration’ and ‘the use of crematorium’ for healthcare waste requiring disinfection and treatment,” the group said.
The group also emphasized that crematories as a form of disposal “highly unacceptable as crematories are not designed and constructed to incinerate trash.”
“From our perspective, it will be unlawful to use a crematorium for waste disinfection and treatment as it is not authorized by law to engage in such waste-related activities. Also, allowing such activities will be culturally inappropriate and will be frowned upon as our society does not consider human remains as ‘waste’ and crematories as ‘waste incinerators,’” the group argued.
“It will be culturally insensitive, from our point of view, to cremate people who have succumbed to COVID-19 and other diseases in crematories where trash is incinerated,” it added.
The group also explained that it is “imprudent to even consider the use of crematorium as an option.” Some crematories have not been operating following the government regulations, such as the case of a public crematorium at Manila North Cemetery, which was suspended in 2016 for violations of DENR regulations.
“In the greater interest of public health and safety, we urge the DENR and EMB to recall or revoke the said advisory without delay, and to duly consult and collaborate with the DOH and other stakeholders on matters affecting public health and the environment,” the group said.