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Call for inspections after fatal ammonia leaks

PHILIPPINES: Authorities in the Philippines are being pressed to carry out inspections of ice and cold storage plants following recent fatal ammonia refrigerant leaks. 

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for chemical safety and environmental health, is pressing local governments in the Philippines to act following ammonia gas leak incidents in Metro Manila and Batangas province last Wednesday (February 3)

The ammonia leak from the T P Marcelo Ice Plant and Cold Storage facility in Navotas City led to the death of two workers, the hospitalisation of close to 100 people and the evacuation of some 3,000 nearby residents. On the same day, a leakage from the refrigeration system of an ice plant in Lian Batangas caused the plants at an adjacent creek to wither and the fish to die.

Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues, called upon local government units to conduct immediate inspection of ice and cold storage facilities in their areas of jurisdiction.

“The inspections should be undertaken with the participation of frontline communities as they are the ones most seriously affected in the event of any untoward chemical leaks or spills,” he emphasised.

“The latest ammonia gas leak incidents should prompt both the public and private sectors into reviewing and upgrading their chemical accident prevention and preparedness programs,” he concluded.

The government should also document and analyze past incidents of ammonia gas leaks to learn from their causes, the responses made and to avoid such poisoning events from happening again, the EcoWaste Coalition suggested.

The EcoWaste Coalition recalled several ammonia gas leak incidents in recent years.

In March 2019, the ammonia gas tank of an ice plant in Pagadian City exploded killing one worker and injuring two others.

In September 2018, at least 35 residents of Polomolok, South Cotabato were hospitalised due to an ammonia gas leak from a fruit processing and storage plant located in the area. In February of that year, an ammonia gas leak from an ice plant in Olongapo City sent 57 local schoolchildren to hospital.

In October 2016, a worker was killed and another worker was hospitalised after being exposed to ammonia that leaked from a cold storage facility in Mandaue City, while hundreds of workers at an industrial complex in Carmona, Cavite stopped work due to ammonia gas leak from an ice plant.

In June 2012, hundreds of residents of Barangay Sta. Cruz, Quezon City fled to safety following an ammonia gas leak from an ice plant. Also in April of the same year, an ammonia gas leak occurred at a cold storage facility in Barangay Manggahan, Pasig City causing the hospitalisation of three persons. In February of that year, an ammonia gas leak from an ice plant sickened 100 residents in Barangay Ayala, Zamboanga City.

In March 2011, residents of Barangay Tibag, Pulilan, Bulacan were affected by an ammonia leak from an ice cream factory in the area. In February 2011, over 300 families had to be evacuated as a result of an ammonia gas spill at an ice plant in Barangay Bagong Bantay, Quezon City.

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