Gov’t goes easy on dead businesses | Inquirer News

Gov’t goes easy on dead businesses

/ 05:07 AM October 31, 2011

Only 213 of 500 cemeteries and memorial parks in Central Luzon have acquired environmental clearance certificates (ECCs). However, many do not maintain the mandatory 25-meter distance from houses or businesses.

At least 35 funeral parlors have gotten ECCs but none has waste water treatment facilities and only use septic tanks. Six crematoria have licenses to operate in Central Luzon.

But government agencies have no information on how many funeral parlors and licensed embalmers operate in Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales and Aurora.


These indicate that government regulation over activities and businesses related to the dead are limited or little, interviews with officials and reports from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and Department of Health (DOH) showed.


These happened even as the DOH had crafted the implementing rules and regulations on the disposal of the dead in 1996 or 20 years after the Code of Sanitation (Presidential Decree No. 856) was issued.

These take place although the EMB, in 2008, required funeral parlors, cemeteries and crematoria to secure ECCs by undergoing the environmental impact assessment system (EIAS).

“Recent developments and studies show that wastes from funeral parlors and cemeteries are hazardous and a threat to the environment and to  public health if not properly disposed of,” EMB’s Memorandum Circular No. 009 said on why those establishments have been covered by EIAS.

“Likewise, the operation of crematoria, which involve the burning process, if not mitigated, may cause air pollution,” it said.

The EMB, however, does not have enough personnel to check and monitor compliance.

“The trend now is self-monitoring. We encourage project proponents to self monitor, to be honest, that even when the government is not monitoring them, they should follow the rules so their operations would not inconvenience others,” said Lormelyn Claudio, EMR regional director.


A major problem is the lack of sanitary engineers and inspectors in local governments that are at the forefront of enforcing laws, said Manuel Castro, chief of the DOH environmental and occupational health unit in the region.

The region’s seven provinces have a sanitary engineer each. The 117 towns and 13 cities have 309 sanitary inspectors.

“They don’t only monitor funeral parlors, cemeteries and embalmers. They inspect hospitals, clinics, restaurants, villages and markets,” said Castro, noting that some double up as health personnel.

Only two funeral parlors with morgues get their wastes (cotton, gloves, needles, etc.) sterilized before disposing of these in sanitary landfills, said Al Kane, president of Safe Waste Inc.

Castro said workers occasionally report seeing human body parts in dumps.

None get to enter the Kalangitan landfill in Tarlac, said Alex Laguisma, pollution control officer of the Metro Clark Waste Management Corp. that runs the site. The landfill has a separate site for keeping hazardous wastes, like those from morgues, he said.

Not many are eager to get permits because of the amount of paper work and other requirements. Developers of memorial parks or cemeteries are required to submit 21 documents, including ECCs.

Contamination of groundwater can be avoided if concrete vaults are used to seal the corpse, said Jerry Quiape, an undertaker in Mabalacat, Pampanga.

But at P6,000 each, the vaults are not popular among poor families. “They go for ‘apartments,’” he said, referring to concrete niches that are piled on top of the other.

The Northern Mortuary Association (NMA), a group of owners of mortuaries in Central and northern Luzon, wants the DOH and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to crack down on illegal operators.

Around 40 fly-by-night operators abound in the region, initial data gathered by Noli Mensaldes, a member of the NMA organizing committee, showed.

Illegal enterprises are run without licenses from the DOT, DTI, local governments or public sanitary engineers, said Mario Cruz, one of the founding members of NMA.

“They employ boys as young as 14 years old as embalmers,” Cruz said.

He said clients also run the risk of not being able to claim insurance benefits for their dead because in the absence of permits, illegal mortuaries could not issue official receipts.

Cruz said many of those engaged in illegal mortuaries are coffin makers in Pampanga, making the situation in the province alarming.

“They make the coffins, buy chandeliers, get just about anybody to do the embalming, do the embalming under the tree, bury [the blood] and they’re in business,” Cruz said.

Some operators offer cremation services despite the absence of facilities or permits, he said.

Illegal operators pose unfair competition because they drop the cost by 50 percent due to low overhead expenses. Funeral services, including a metal coffin, fetch about P65,000, Cruz said.

He said illegal mortuaries can also be used as parties in crimes when they handle or dispose of victims or unidentified people without death certificates from hospitals.

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“We’re sounding off a wake-up call to our government agencies. It’s time to strictly regulate the industry,” Cruz said.


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