KOGA Says! RENGO's Statement by General Secretary
Statement on the Start of Applications by Victims to the New Asbestos Law
20 March 2006
RENGO's Statement by General Secretary Koga
- Today was the first day for applications to be accepted for the "Asbestos-related Health Hazards Victim Relief Law (New Asbestos Law)" – a law which aids those victims exposed to asbestos and/or those unable to apply for labor accident compensation after the statute of limitations expired – at the Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency (ERCA), Regional Environmental Offices and Labor Standards Supervision Offices nationwide.
There is great disparity between the new asbestos law and workers' accident compensation aid benefits. Further, the former is problematic in that it also limits the period that bereaved families can file requests to three years. However, it is a step forward that a certain degree of indemnity will be granted under the new law to victims and the bereaved that were not covered until now.
- During discussions over the extent of coverage at the Central Environment Council (Ministry of the Environment) RENGO urged members that the State should recognize its responsibility and compensate the victims a sum equivalent to workers' accident compensation together with:  Make diagnosis standards as broad as possible so that questionable cases may also be admitted from the position of providing blanket relief to all asbestos-related victims. ?Necessary follow up countermeasures against asbestos-linked diseases which may lead to mesothelioma or lung cancer in the future.  Reduce the patients' burden when they undergo exploratory medical examinations.
- As a result, the recommendation that the Council submitted to the Environment Minister included these ideas:  include in the coverage diseases that are attendant to both mesothelioma – the designated disease – and lung cancer; such as pneumonia  launch a regular medical check-up system for patients with asbestos-related diseases that may later develop mesothelioma and/or lung cancer in the future. We find it laudatory that some of RENGO's points were adopted into the council’s recommendation.
- Although RENGO finds the level of relief stipulated by the new asbestos law insufficient, the situation makes emergency measures an unavoidable necessity. RENGO will press the government to ensure that filing procedures and the eligibility process beginning today function smoothly and also that relief and compensation for the victims and bereaved families are provided as soon as possible.
- It is necessary that relief for asbestos victims be dealt with over the long term. Further, there are many issues that will require "further information to be gathered" as stated in the recommendation. Consequently, the government should not wait five years to revise the law but strengthen its countermeasures for blanket relief as more knowledge becomes available.
Moreover, regarding future discussions on such issues as collecting additional expenses from enterprises related to asbestos use, any such (collection) system should be made with public consent.
RENGO will not stop with the relief provided under the new asbestos law but clarify the State’s responsibility regarding these hazards, strengthen our movement with greater compensation enforcement and enhancement of measures, and launch a "National Asbestos Congress" in which the government, business, trade unions, NGOs, patient organizations and others will participate in order to attain the ultimate goal of an "Asbestos Free Society."