“Galvanized iron flies and can injure or kill in accident,” said the chrysotile industry. “That’s like winning in lotto although the probability of being hit by a lightning is higher,” retorted the unions.
That exchange did not happen in a session about statistics where probabilities are discussed. It happened in a discussion on substitutes for asbestos-containing materials such as asbestos cement roofing and flat sheet during the consultation meeting on the development of a national program for the elimination of asbestos related diseases (NPEAD) held Monday, 8 November 2010.
The development of NPEAD based on the WHO/ILO Outline began to take shape as discussions centered on the following priorities identified by trade unions:
- Effective system of inspection and enforcement of standards and safety measures
- Safe demolition of buildings with asbestos
- Listing substitutes and alternatives for asbestos-containing materials and asbestos fibers
- Building a central registry and medical surveillance of exposed workers, and
- Establishing a fund for compensation of victims of asbestos-related diseases
The Associated Labor Unions (ALU), Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) affiliate Association of Construction and Informal Workers (ACIW), Philippine Seafarers’ Union (PSU), Seamen’s Hospital, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and affiliates AWATU, KILUSAN, LIKHA and PGEA federations worked on these priorities in a forum held by ALU, BWI and TUCP in 4 October 2010.
The chrysotile industry tried to block the discussions of these priorities with its oft-repeated arguments, its representatives passionate about defending an industry synonymous with death. Out of this world, desperate and funny comments confirm that the industry refuses to accept or denies this fact.
Chairing the meeting, the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) asserted the need to discuss the concerns raised. Other government agencies present – Bureau of Customs (BOC), Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC), Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines (CIAP), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) – would contribute to the discussions on the components of those concerns and the NPEAD.
Together with the compilation of the National Asbestos Profile, the first four priorities would set the agenda of succeeding meetings on the development of NPEAD – the fifth being legislative in nature. The Profile provides the baseline information about the asbestos problem and situation in the Philippines. It will help develop programs or interventions to minimize the occurrence of asbestos related diseases. The ALU and the TUCP will build the National Asbestos Profile as part of the NPEAD.
Pushing for the development of NPEAD is one of two trade unions’ approaches to the issue of asbestos in the Philippines. The other approach is pushing for a law banning asbestos. These two initiatives are different but are not entirely separate. The NPEAD will hopefully prepare the framework for the implementation of the law when passed.
Dominador M. Tuvera
Associated Labor Unions (ALU)-TUCP
Tel.: +632 922 2575; Cell.: +63 927 8095221