By Chito Chavez
A Filipino environmentalist was among the seven recipients of the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists.
Manny Calonzo – former president of the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition and adviser of the Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaign of IPEN, an international NGO network for a toxics-free future – was among the awardees in a ceremony at the San Francisco Opera House.
Calonzo 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.
Calonzo and the EcoWaste-IPEN team conducted 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 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.
The prize was established in 1989 by San Francisco civic leaders and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman and carries a $200,000 award.
Calonzo dedicated the award to Filipino children and youth, including those yet to be born, who 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 cheering crowd of 3,000 people.
“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,” he emphasized.
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,” he said.
“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,” he pointed out.
Calonzo 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 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. Another Philippine paint company, Sycwin Coatings and Wires, Inc., is undergoing lead content verification under this program.
It was 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 the 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.