THE PHILIPPINE government pays at least P2 million every year for “toxic debt,” with Filipinos bearing the burden through taxes.

In a forum attended by some members and alumni of the Earth-UST environmental group last April 8 at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City, civil society groups particularly discussed the case of the Austrian Medical Waste Project for which the country pays P2 million every year for a total of P503 million in 14 years for the purchase of “harmful and useless” incinerators.

Kristopher Peralta, executive vice president of Earth-UST, said the forum was an eye-opener on how much money the government is spending yearly in paying debts, which instead of benefiting citizens, are detrimental not only to the pockets but also to the health of Filipinos.

In 1997, the country signed a loan agreement with Austria that gave 26 medical waste incinerators to government hospitals under the supervision of the Department of Health (DOH).

However in 1999 with the passage of the Clean Air Act, the incinerators were banned after failing in the emission test conducted by the DOH and the World Health Organization. According to a case filed by civil society groups, the incinerators did not meet Philippine environmental standards.

Peralta and other officials of Earth-UST plan to organize symposiums and forums on the effects of improper management of medical waste and to develop awareness regarding “illegitimate and toxic debts” of the country.

“We are certain that we are going to extend the knowledge we got from the forum to all Thomasians through symposiums and forums to develop their awareness regarding the pressing problems on incinerators and toxic debts,” Peralta said.

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The civil society groups that organized the forum against “toxic debts” are Eco Waste Coalition, Health Care Without Harm, and Freedom from Debt Coalition.

Earth-UST was formerly known as Haribon- UST. Nikki Q. Angulo

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