Del Monte, FPA hit for 'unfolding chemical disaster'


Posted at Jun 27 2008 07:00 PM | Updated as of Jun 28 2008 03:00 AM

The presence of the chemical endosulfan inside the capsized passenger vessel MV Princess of the Stars was condemned by activist groups and a lawmaker on Friday.

In a statement, environmental activist group Greenpeace on Friday said they are "outraged" by the discovery of the endosulfan shipment and held Del Monte, the consignee of the the shipment, and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) accountable for the "unfolding chemical disaster."

"It is outrageous that a shipment of a highly toxic substance was allowed on board a passenger vessel. We demand that Del Monte and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) be made fully accountable for this unfolding chemical disaster, the former for continuing the use of such highly toxic chemical and the latter for allowing multinational companies to use them despite the national prohibition and the scientific evidence of their toxicity," Greenpeace Campaign Manager Beau Baconguis said.

"This pesticide has also been found to be highly toxic to birds, fish and other aquatic organisms. This is the reason why the Philippines has severe restrictions on the use of Endosulfan especially near or around bodies of water. The M/V Princess of the Stars disaster has now exposed that a multinational corporation like Del Monte is using tons of banned pesticides on their pineapples meant for export. That it took a tragic disaster to expose another ongoing disaster is infuriating," she added.

Greenpeace said Endosulfan is for "global elimination" under the United Nations Convention on Persistent Organic Polllutants (Stockholm Convention), to which the Philippines is a signatory.

Currently, the chemical has been banned in the European Union and many other countries due to concerns over its toxicity.

Fisherfolk alarmed

Meanwhile, the Kilusang Mangingisda, a national coalition of 14 fisherfolk federations, called on the government to "do everything" to prevent the chemical from spreading.

In a statement, the fisherfolk group also called on the government to "hold liable those who are responsible for exposing people and the environment to this danger of an insecticide spill--as part of their overall responsibility for allowing this sea tragedy to happen at the cost hundreds of lives."

The group voiced their concern over the possible effects of the chemical on marine life, as well as the effect on people who consume seafood, and divers who could possibly be exposed to the chemical during the search and retrieval operations.

Roxas: Sulpicio Lines should explain

Senator Mar Roxas, meanwhile, said Sulpicio Lines should explain before the Senate why it carried 10 metric tons of the restricted pesticide aboard a passenger ferry, saying the owners of Sulpicio Lines put the lives of its passengers at risk even before the storm hit and capsized the ship.

In a statement, Roxas said the shipping company would also have to explain the presence of highly-restricted cargo before the customs, health and environment agencies.

"An aging ferry was allowed to sail in a typhoon, carrying tons of restricted hazardous pesticide perhaps without the knowledge of the passengers themselves -- two things that should not have happened under our law, but happened anyway. Heads should roll and the company must be held accountable," Roxas said.

"The Senate will demand from our maritime, environment and customs authorities all documents and information pointing to how Sulpicio Lines recklessly handled such hazardous cargo and bull-headedly went against common sense by sailing into rough seas," he said.

"Irresponsible firms and persons have no right to do business in the Philippines," the senator added.

"This incident reeks of sheer irresponsibility on the part of the shipowner, and may even point to the negligence of our authorities. We will make its owners and officers attend the Senate investigation, even if it would entail force. We owe this to hundreds of victims and their bereaved families," he stressed. - Kris Danielle Suarez,