In Barangay Apas, Cell sites blamed for cancer deaths
Niña G. Sumacot-Abenoja (The Freeman) - June 19, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - At least 19 people have died of cancer in Barangay Apas, Cebu City and their families blamed it on the radiation emitted by the two cell sites towering in their area.

Members of the Calvary Hills Apas Residents Organization are asking for the relocation of the cell sites believing that constant exposure to radiation would cause cancer. The residents headed by Dr. Porponio Lapa were accompanied yesterday by Apas Barangay Captain Ramil Ayuman during the public hearing conducted by the Cebu City Council.

“Ang among lugar, kalbaryo g’yud. These cell towers are bombarding us with deadly radiation,” said Lapa, retired vice-president of Cebu Normal University.

Lapa said that he now fears of having prostate cancer due to the same reason while four others are suffering the same threat.

“The companies should not be in a denial mode and accept that radiation causes health problems,” Lapa asked as he revealed a 2004 German government study that reportedly showed that people within 1,300 feet from a cell tower has three times risk of cancer, with children and pregnant women at maximum risk.

The study, he said, further showed that people being exposed to the thermal effects of the radiation suffer fatigue, cataract, and reduced mental concentration.

“We are tax payers. Is the income of the barangay more important than our health? Please help us,” Lapa urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Health that gave the mobile telecommunication companies the permit to build the tower in the area.

Ayuman said it was former Apas barangay captain Clemente Rosales and the seven councilmen who approved the construction of the Globe and Sun Cellular cell towers in 2000 and 2004, respectively. The construction was allegedly done without proper consultation and despite the opposition of the residents.

“Calvary Hills is a densely-populated area. The permit should have not been issued in the first place,” said Ayuman, citing a city ordinance that prohibits cell towers in residential zones.

Breast cancer survivor Amelia Celocia also has her own share of health risks allegedly acquired due to constant exposure to the cell towers’ radiation.

According to her, it was in 2011 that a fast-growing cyst was noticed in her breast and in the following year, cancer cells were found in the said cyst. She underwent two major operations in the past, the recent in May 23 this year when she had her right breast removed.

“I appeal that our concern, which is the transfer of the two cell sites, be taken into consideration seriously,” Celocia said.

Globe’s legal counsel, Atty. Ma. Leonor Teves, denied that the radiation caused cancer to the residents. She explained that at the top of the tower, some 40 meters high, is the antenna that receives and throws the signal.

“There is highly no emission (of radiation) to residents,” she said, adding that they recognize the concern of the residents by submitting the required data to the DOH Center for Device Regulation, Radiation Health, and Research.

According to Teves, Globe has also secured a certificate in March 10, 2000 indicating the residents’ consent on the construction of the tower and a certificate of public hearing conducted in April 9, 2000 with no objections from them.

Teves said it would entail a lot of expense to the company should they transfer the cell tower, which she said, has never been undertaken by the company. There are more or less 100 cell sites in Cebu City alone, she said.

The lawyer’s response was affirmed by DOH Center for Device Regulation, Radiation Health, and Research head Agnette Peralta, who claimed that “up to now, there is no conclusive evidence that exposure to radio-frequency radiation causes cancer.”

“Everyday we are exposed to radiation. We have our mobile phones, but the radiation is considerably lessened if these are placed at least 30 centimeters from us. For residents in Calvary, they are exposed to radiation if they are near the towers’ antenna,” explained Peralta.

The public hearing ended with both parties agreeing to the conduct of onsite inspection at the towers using DOH’s radio-frequency radiation measuring device.

The council created an ad hoc committee composing the heads of the committees on Urban Planning, Health, and Infrastructure to undertake the inspection with DOH and Calvary residents.

Councilor Nestor Archival, the proponent of the resolution, requested the ad hoc committee to take into consideration the matters discussed and come up with a recommendation within 15 days, which the council heeded. —(FREEMAN)


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