The two-day National Capital Region Regional Inception Meeting and Validation Workshop for the Philippine Healthcare and Mercury Wastes Management Project (PHCWMP) concluded in
Quezon City yesterday, June 11, 2024, wrapping up the series of meetings intended to validate
and refine the project’s strategies. PHCWMP is a 5-year project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) that aims to reduce the release and emissions of hazardous chemicals in healthcare wastes through environmentally sound practices.

The project will be implemented in Region 2, Region 8, and the NCR by the United Nations
Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) with the Department of Natural Resources –
Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) as the national lead agency, and civil society
organization (CSO) BAN Toxics as the executing entity.

Geri-Geronimo Sañez, chief of the EMB Environmental Quality Management Division, emphasized the significance of the unique partnership between the government and a CSO during his opening remarks. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank our partner BAN Toxics. We have been implementing some projects with EMB, and this is only in the Philippines, shall I say, that a government agency is working closely with civil society organizations.”

The inception meeting held during the first day of the event was attended by the project’s
partners, Quirino Memorial Medical Center (QMMC), Metro Clark Waste Management Corp.,
Integrated Waste Management, Inc. (IWMI), and Envirocare Mgt. Precision, as well as DENR-
EMB Central and NCR regional offices, Department of Health – Health Facility Development
Bureau, and the DENR Foreign-Assisted and Special Projects Service.

Discussions during the meeting underscored the need to review existing policies and regulations regarding healthcare waste management. This includes a review of current licensing and permitting processes for healthcare facilities, treaters, and transporters of hazardous wastes to remove regulatory challenges that lead to delays while ensuring compliance with important environmental and health standards.

Additionally, the meeting emphasized the need to harmonize mechanisms for coordination among and within relevant regulatory agencies.

“The project aims to conduct research on the effectiveness of Republic Act No. 6969, or the ‘Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990,’ and related policies, in the context of healthcare waste management, specifically on how the law can promote the reduction and environmentally-sound management of hazardous wastes,” said Jam Lorenzo, BAN Toxics’ Policy Development and Research Officer, and PHCWMP project manager.

Among the major outcomes of the PHCWMP is policy development, and its first year of implementation includes policy reviews and gap analyses.

On the second day of the event, the project team visited the waste management facilities of
QMMC in Project 4, Quezon City. Notable during the visit were QMMC’s waste reduction
practices through composting and other waste diversion methods that may be further studied
and replicated in other facilities throughout the duration of the PHCWMP implementation.
However, QMMC also shared the difficulties of limiting the entry of single-use plastics by their
patients and caregivers. Since the hospital currently has no cafeteria, patients and caregivers
often bring their own food, typically packaged in single-use plastics. Quezon City Ordinance
2868-2019 prohibits the use of single-use plastics and plastic bags throughout the entire city.

According to Lorenzo, another major component of the project is capacity building and awareness raising, not just within the partner hospitals, but also in the community, on how to reduce healthcare wastes.

“We want the public to be aware of the increasing trend of healthcare waste generation, and
the accompanying challenges of managing these wastes. Healthcare waste is a public concern
that requires a multi-stakeholder approach. Single-use plastics also pose a threat to public
health and the environment, and the project will address this by promoting best-environmental
practices to reduce waste,” Lorenzo added.

The PHCWMP seeks to reduce the release and emission of unintentionally-produced persistent
organic pollutants (uPOPs), and one of the known sources of these is the burning of plastic wastes.

The NCR leg of the regional inception events was the third and last of the series. A national workshop will be set next month to finalize the five-year work plan of the project.

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