IT took the netizens’efforts, the publicity that followed and a swift action taken by the city government of Manila, through its indefatigable mayor, Isko Moreno, for attention to be drawn to the urgency of monitoring strict compliance to COVID-19 waste management regulations.
According to the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmentalist group, the used COVID-19 test materials that accidentally scattered on M. de la Fuente St. in Sampaloc, from a punctured trash bag attached to a pedicab should rouse the authorities into conducting random monitoring of compliance to government-issued health care waste management guidelines.
The group’s call for COVID-19 waste management compliance monitoring came after Manila’s Bureau of Permits chief Levi Facundo served a ‘show cause order’ issued by Secretery the Mayor Bernie Ang to CP Diagnostics Center, the pinpointed source of the littered test kits, requiring it to explain why administrative charges should not be filed against the laboratory located at Suite 404, Equitable Bank Building, C. Palanca Street Quiapo, 039 Brgy. 386, Manila.
In his letter, Sec. Ang pointed out that the facility violated provisions of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and Republic Act 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act.
Ang stressed that used rapid medical test kits are “considered as biohazard and infectious waste because it contains infectious materials (blood extracted). Mishandling and littering of such imposes threat and danger to the wellbeing of the public. These used test kits must be placed in puncture-proof container with 10 percent chlorox prior to its disposal.”
Facundo said the concerned facility shall remain closed pending its submission of an explanation which will have to be assessed by local authorities if acceptable or not. Moreno pointed out that as per Department Memorandum No. 2020-0170 signed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, “all health care wastes generated in the management and treatment of suspect, probable and confirmed COVID-19 patients should be considered as infectious waste.”
The mayor also stressed that hazardous waste disposal must be done through DENR-accredited contractors who will take charge of the treatment, storage and disposal of such wastes, ensuring that they are properly handled and treated before final disposal.
The mayor added that the proper disposal of hazardous or infectious wastes is a requirement that needs to be strictly followed for any concerned establishment to be granted by the Department of Health a license to operate.
Ramon San Pascual, Executive Director of Health Care Without Harm SE Asia said that, “In a public health crisis or not, improperly managed infectious wastes are considered dangerous both for the public and the environment. Whether it is the risk of getting injured or the contamination of soils and bodies of water, infectious waste from hospitals or clinics are harmful when not collected, treated and disposed of safely.”
“Random compliance inspections are needed to ensure that the regulated community such as hospitals, clinics, laboratories, quarantine centers, barangay health centers and related facilities are faithfully adhering to the safe management of health care waste, especially during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Facilities that generate COVID-19 wastes should follow infectious waste segregation, storage, collection, transportation and disposal protocols to reduce health and safety risks,” said Benosa.
“As health care wastes generated in these facilities are deemed infectious, facility administrators must ensure that such wastes are managed properly by designated and trained personnel,” he added.
“The responsibility for collecting COVID-19 wastes should not be left in the hands of unauthorized individuals and unaccredited treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) companies,” Benosa pointed out.
TSD facilities, which are accredited by the Environmental Management Bureau, are the facilities where hazardous wastes are stored, treated, recycled, reprocessed or disposed of. From April to July 2020, the Philippines generated 19,187.7 metric tons of infectious health care waste based on a special permit to transport submitted by accredited treaters to the EMB.
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