Wednesday, November 29, 2006
A pair of incidents within 24 hours shows the dangers of hazardous chemicals in the Philippines. The first event took place in a countries richest municipality’s - the City of Makati where a spill cause problems for a local community after a local high school science lab had a major accident while people were looking over chemicals for end of the year experiments.
toxic substances were unreleased accidentaly - more due to neglect and error.
 ” … ABC News Australia report:
Manila: Ten high school teachers and two security guards were hospitalised yesterday after they inhaled noxious chemicals in their school lab in Makati City, school authorities and officials said. They were taken to a government-run Makati Hospital for contamination testing after they vomited, developed skin rashes, could not breathe, and felt giddy when they went near the science section of the San Isidro High School yesterday, said Fire Chief Superintendent Sofia Mendoza.
“They have to stay in the hospital for about four days. We are still determining the types of chemicals that have affected them,” said Dr Joselito Pascual of the poison control centre of the University of Philippines-Philippine General Hospital. “We are looking at six to seven types of chemicals that were suspected to have affected the health of the patients,” said Pascual. …’ 
The second spill took place in a small town north of Manila - in the now semi urban area of Marilao - a once small town - now filled with subdivisions from the ever rapidly growing cities of Manila.
…”Chemical Fumes Sicken 31 in Philippines
Forbes, NY - 1 hour ago
Noxious fumes from chemical waste dumped into a Philippine creek forced thousands to flee their homes and sickened dozens Tuesday, officials said. …
Philippines: Thousands evacuate after chemical spill CCTV
Philippine chemical spill sickens 31 Houston Chronicle
Philippine chemical spill sickens 20 people; 3,000 flee homes International Herald Tribune …” 
Here as international reports show from the wires- agonise, it was more sinister- a truck carrying chemicals from area factories or industrial sites dumped its waste into what perhaps a driver thought was a place where few people were. result 31 hospitalised and the chemicals caused severe damage to the local community.
But a email I got from a local security expert based here in Manila - who has worked internationally with major foreign law enforcement agencies says both spills show the risks and dangers HAZMAT cleanup, handling and investigation when events like these occur.
Most local government units do not have the proper equipment and or capability to handle things like this - the danger considering how much chemical use in manufacturing is so prevalent. The need for more Hazmat safety gear is bdly needed per my security expert.
Here’s an excerpt from the email.
”… ” Mike,
my former partners were the ones who responded with the bunny suits and SCBA breathing apparatus. all the gear of gov’t were deployed in cebu for the ASEAN summit. the gov’t should consider upgrading its hazmat and WMD capabilities. the one at san isidro was just a school accident, what if it were a terrorist act??? the gear that was brought to the site was from , the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in laguna. They were kind enough to respond with their equipment. ” - …
The need and demand is high and gear is limited. Perhaps DENR could get into the act and start equipping PENRO / CENRO offices in the country with HAZMAT gear- in HAZMAT emergencies - after all DENR Sec. Angie Reyes’s people would most likely be the lead agency when disasters like a HAZMAT problem occur in prosecution and later in enforcement and cleanup.
DILG and the PNP have gear but it is limited. Imagine the scene today in Bulacan which I saw unfolding on TV. I know personally the reporters who responded. Doland Castro of ABS-CBN at about 6:20 in the morning was reporting from an area near the spill and promptly came to the conclusion his gear a few masks were more needed by local emergency workers and gave up his filtered mask gear.
He later reported most people in the area - were sick nearest the spill and scores more were ‘walking to the site to see for themselves.” what the bad smell was.
Here the LGU could have and should have set up a safety zone and also cordoned off the area. HAZMAT training is clearly lacking at the Police and LGU level - the level of chemical danger and risk is not only smell in many cases but even mere exposure alone.
One need only be reminded of the tragic Bhopal chemical spill that killed thousands in India among them scores of ill-equipped first responders who rushed into the area to give aid only to fall victim to the very toxic cloud that was there.
Let both Bulacan and Makati be a lesson - there is a risk and danger. As well as a need. Perhaps this Christmas shopping list for local government and the PNP and the DENR should be HAZMAT equipment and training sessions. before something worse happens.
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