The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Thursday filed smuggling charges against the importer of 48 container vans of garbage from Canada.
According to a statement from the BOC, the charges filed were against the owner and proprietor of Live Green Enterprise, Nelson Manio, for “unlawfully importing municipal solid waste misdeclared as ‘plastic scraps’” intended for recycling.
“[It was revealed last June 3] that the container vans contain non-hazardous ‘municipal solid waste’ of used mixed and unsorted, or ‘heterogeneous’ waste, including household and street garbage,” the statement said.
“This is a wake-up call for all of us. It is very clear that these waste materials were shipped to the Philippines illegally… Aside from filing charges, we are making sure that the Customs accreditation of companies engaged in the importation of heterogeneous waste like Live Green Enterprise and Chronic Plastics are canceled,” Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina said.
Live Green Enterprise is one of two firms, along with Chronic Plastics, accused of importing container vans filled with illegal plastic trash from Canada, with some of it having been dumped in different landfills in the Philippines.
Chronic Plastics was sued for similar charges last year for bringing in at least 50 container vans of garbage but the case is pending with the courts.
Both firms violated the “Interim Guidelines in the Importation of Recyclable Material Containing Hazardous Substances” of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.
“We are mindful of the threat to public health and safety that [this waste]could bring to our people, that is why we are committed to continue working with the Philippine government to resolve this issue of mutual concern in a satisfactory manner,” Lina said.
Environmental watchdog EcoWaste Coalition welcomed the legal action taken by Customs authorities against Pampanga-based Live Green Enterprises.
“We welcome BOC’s legal action against the garbage importer that we hope will be expeditiously tackled by the proper court,” Aileen Lucero, coordinator of the coalition, said.
“The court, we pray, should order the importer to immediately re-export the garbage to Canada and set a unequivocal ruling that will severely castigate and punish any attempt to make our country… a global trash bin,” she added.
“No importation of heterogenous and unsorted plastic materials shall be allowed” and that “all plastics should have no traces of toxic materials,” Administrative Order 1994-28 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) states.
In their letter to the BOC and the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) last June 25, the EcoWaste Coalition objected to the local disposal of Canada’s trash, urging both agencies to push for immediate return of the botched garbage shipment for environmentally-sound disposal in Canada.
“Allowing the landfilling of Canadian garbage into our soil would send a very wrong and dangerous signal to waste traders that the Philippines, despite the legal restrictions, is an open place where the refuse of affluent societies masked as ‘plastic scraps’ can be sent for disposal,” the group said.
Shipping back the illegal garbage imports from Canada, it added, “will demonstrate that our government means business when it comes to protecting the public health and the environment from illegal waste trade.”
The group urged the BOC “to pay keen attention [to]the entry of materials described as ‘recyclable plastic scraps,’ which could be a smokescreen for the illegal entry of residual ‘wastes collected from households,’ that are also covered by the Basel Convention, along with other categories of hazardous wastes.”
The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, of which the Philippines is a party, recognizes “that any state has the sovereign right to ban the entry or disposal of foreign hazardous waste and other waste in its territory.”
Meanwhile, EMB Director Jonas Leones and Customs Deputy Director Ariel Nepomuceno requested the Department of Foreign Affairs to file a diplomatic protest against Canada to prevent future dumping of trash in the Philippines.
The DENR and BOC said the request for a diplomatic protest is “in view of the seriousness of the issue and in order to prevent a repeat of this unfortunate incident and enjoin the government of Canada to revisit [its]domestic regulations on the export or illegal traffic of its waste anywhere in the world.”
The two government agencies are also asking Canada to provide documents that would serve as pieces of evidence for filing of a case against the importer of the trash.