By Nelson Flores, Ll.B., MSCK
FORMER EcoWaste Coalition president Manny Calonzo on Monday was awarded the prestigious 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize by the US-based Goldman Environmental Foundation for his determined campaign and fruitful advocacy against lead tainted paints.
Calonzo, who is also an adviser of the Global Lead Paint elimination Campaign of International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), is among the seven recipients of the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists at the San Francisco Opera House in San Francisco, California. The annual Goldman Environmental Prize award was established in 1989 by San Francisco civic leaders and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman.
He was selected by an international jury from confidential nominations for spearheading a fruitful advocacy campaign banning the production, sale and use of paints containing lead, a cumulative poison targeting the brain and the central nervous system, through the EcoWaste Coalition, a Philippine environment and public health watchdog, and IPEN.
Calonzo and the EcoWaste-IPEN team work involved studies that generated data on lead content of solvent-based decorative paints sold in the Philippines; organized awareness-raising activities on lead poisoning prevention; built links and alliances with the paint industry and other stakeholders; pushed for mandatory lead paint standard and regulation; and promoted the world’s first third-party Lead Safe Paint Certification program.
The former EcoWaste president dedicated the award to Filipino children and youth, including those yet to be born. He said they deserve to grow and develop in a pollution-free environment that will not expose them to lead in paint and dust which can result in life-long decrease in intelligence and other adverse health impacts.
“To protect and foster the brains and bodies of our children and youth, and improve the safety of their living, learning and playing environments, the Philippines took the crucial decision to ban lead-containing paints, a major source of childhood lead exposure,” Calonzo told the 3,000 cheering crowd.
Moreover, Calonzo noted that “by phasing out lead-containing decorative paints in 2016 and lead-containing paints for industrial uses by 2019, we hope to achieve a lead safe paint market by 2020 and ensure a lead safe environment for all, especially for children and babies still growing in the womb.”
Reflecting the collaborative nature of the campaign, Calonzo acknowledged the constructive alliances and relationships forged among partners from the government, industry, civil society, health sector and the academia.
“With key stakeholders on board and working together, and with support from top environment and health officials, we carried out a spirited campaign to eliminate lead paint, an entirely preventable source of lead exposure,” he said.
“This recognition of our collective success in the Philippines, I hope, will inspire global efforts to ban lead paints, particularly in developing countries, at a much faster tempo. While a few countries have in recent years adopted binding lead paint laws and regulations, much work remains to adequately address this serious human health hazard. No nation in which lead paints are still produced and consumed can claim to have made real progress in ensuring children’s health and safety.”
Calonzo, at the same time, commended the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, EcoWaste Coalition, IPEN and the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint for their contributions to the successful campaign.
He also specifically recognized Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines. Inc. and Davies Paints Philippines for being the first two companies in the world to earn the Lead Safe Paint® mark under a new third-party certification program.
It will be recalled that the groundbreaking Chemical Control Order on Lead and Lead Compounds (CCO) issued by the DENR in 2013 paved the way for the eventual phase-out in December 2016 of lead-containing architectural, household and decorative paints following a three-year phase-out period. The same regulation provides for the phase out in 2019 of lead-containing paints for industrial applications after a six-year transition period.
Under the Duterte administration, supplemental directives were issued in 2017 and 2018 by the Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Interior and Local Government to mainstream the mandatory procurement and use of lead safe paints, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.
“The continuing collaboration by the government, industry and civil society, backed by informed and vigilant paint consumers, is crucial in ensuring full compliance to the CCO goals and targets. As children’s lives do matter, we need to keep the environment safe from lead, mercury and other pollutants that can impede childhood growth and development and negatively affect their future,” Calonzo said.
Aside from Calonzo the other Goldman Environmental Prize winners this year are Francia Marquez from Colombia, Claire Nouvian from France, Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid from South Africa, Leeanne Walters from USA, and Khanh Nguy Thi from Vietnam.