Amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate on Sunday called on the Duterte administration to look into rising crematorium fees.
As the number of COVID-19 related deaths continue to rise with the upsurge of infected cases, Zarate urged President Rodrigo Duterte “to strictly monitor and regulate the crematorium operations so as to prevent and stop unscrupulous operators from exploiting the current COVID-19 pandemic and cash in on the tragedy of others.”
“We have received reports about the exorbitant fees of private crematoriums if the cause of death of a person is COVID-19. Then, there is a long queue for cremation. The kin of the deceased are being asked to pay the storage fee while waiting for a schedule,” the House deputy minority leader said.
“We should stop this practice. Do not take advantage of the tragedy that has been affecting our countrymen who are suffering too from hospital expenses.
He urged owners of crematories not to impose charges on storage fees and not to ask for higher fees of cremation.
“Our concerned officials should look into this immediately and hear our sentiments,” he said.
Earlier, the environment watchdog Ecowaste Coalition urged the government on Saturday to check the safety of what it described as overworked cremators amid the piling of bodies for cremation as a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Our society also has to look after the health and safety of our overburdened funeral service and crematorium workers, who are COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) frontliners themselves,” said Thony Dizon, a chemical safety campaigner from the EcoWaste Coalition.
“We hope they are provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, are able to adequately rest, and are justly compensated,” he added.
Meanwhile, with some facilities reportedly jacking up their fees, EcoWaste Coalition also requested the government to monitor cremation and urn prices and provide subsidies for those in need.
The group also prodded national and local government authorities to check on the compliance of crematories to the Clean Air Act and related regulations.
It added that random inspections of public and private crematories should also be done to check whether or not they are compliant with the requirements of the Clean Air Act and related regulations.
“As overburdened crematoria grapple with rising COVID deaths, we urge our environmental law enforcers to make it sure that relevant pollution prevention laws are strictly observed to protect the health of the living, especially downwind communities, from hazardous air pollutants,” Dizon said.
A compliant cremation facility has a valid permit to operate; a registered hazardous waste generator; submits quarterly self-monitoring reports; has an accredited pollution control officer; and has adequate pollution prevention and control measures to ensure emissions are within “acceptable levels.”
The group cited a 2018 study on the “Emission Characteristics of Harmful Air Pollutants from Cremators in Beijing, China” which notes that “the process of corpse cremation generates numerous harmful air pollutants, including particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and heavy metals.”
It added that “these pollutants could have severe effects on the surrounding environment and human health.”