Davao City okays training for handling of hazardous materials

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 December) – Training for the city’s first responders in the handling of hazardous materials will start next year, an official said.

City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chair Emmanuel Jaldon said the proposal has been approved by the city council.

The tasks of the first responders range from handling accidents involving chemicals to the containment of biological agents such as Ebola, Jaldon said.

“We need to equip our responders with the proper capabilities in handling hazardous waste, especially in the case of a growing city like Davao,” he said.

He added the plan would also involve the acquisition of more equipment and suits for the job.

The city had another incident Saturday night involving a pipe burst at the Solana ice plant in Puan, which threatened to leak ammonia nearby.

Central 911 and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) immediately sent teams that can handle hazardous materials to the area, and policemen cordoned the vicinity.

According to Jaldon, the ammonia leak was contained by the plant management 30 minutes after the reported incident.

However, Jaldon lamented that the city’s first responders still had a lot to learn about their job.

He said the city already had equipment, but the first responders still lack awareness, specialties and advanced knowledge.

“We’re eyeing the creation of a multi-agency group that has the technical capability to address hazmat (hazardous materials) incidences,” he said.

But before the council could do this, Jaldon said a thorough review of the policies needed to be done.

Jaldon cited that when formic acid spilled in front of a school along Ponciano in September this year, the BFP poured sand over the chemical, whose odor was already spreading at the vicinity, and scooped the sand for transport elsewhere.

He said the response was “acceptable” and necessary to avoid spilling the chemical into the city’s sewage system.

But Leonardo Avila III, environment committee chair of the city council said the move showed an absence of coordination among the first responders.

Avila added the city council would be drafting by next year an ordinance penalizing establishments improperly handling hazardous materials.

The proposed ordinance could include banning the entry into the city of any hazardous waste, he said.

Aside from the ban, the ordinance would also cancel the business permits of the offenders, granting the national laws on waste management do not impose enough penalties.

However, in a telephone interview, City Health Office sanitation chief Robert Oconer said the city could not prohibit the entry of vehicles, citing the opinion of the City Legal Office.

The CHO had already recommended for the strict implementation of the truck ban during “risk hours” or during those hours when there would be many people in the streets. (MindaNews)