Groups say govt too lenient with toxic waste dumping

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 Members of environment and health groups hold a ship made of paper representing the vessel that brought in the cargo of toxic waste from Canada. PHOTO BY MIKE DE JUAN

Members of environment and health groups hold a ship made of paper representing the vessel that brought in the cargo of toxic waste from Canada. PHOTO BY MIKE DE JUAN

ENVIRONMENTAL and public health groups on Thursday slammed the government’s plan to allow the “illegal” disposal in the Philippines of 50 container vans of Canadian toxic waste and insisted that the trash be shipped back to Canada where it came from.

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Several government agencies—led by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Bureau of Customs (BOC)—are reportedly keen on disposing of the illegally dumped Canadian toxic waste in the country instead of fighting to have it sent back to Canada for violating international law, Ang Nars Partylist Rep. Leah Paquiz disclosed in a press conference.

Von Hernandez, president of EcoWaste Coalition and executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the transfer of the toxic waste to Subic is proof that plans are afoot to have the waste shipments disposed in the country.

“The letter from the DENR reinforces and confirms this duplicitous intent on the part of our government authorities,” Hernandez said.

According to Atty. Richard Gutierrez, executive director of BAN Toxics, illegal toxic waste trade is an international crime.

“It is no different from dealing in illegal drugs, endangered species, and other forms of trade that the international community has deemed noxious. Why our government is even contemplating on accepting these illegal wastes when international law is behind us is exasperating,” he said.

Earlier this year, the BOC seized 50 container vans containing various waste materials and hazardous wastes imported from Canada, with the consignee, Chronic Plastics Inc., declaring the shipment as “assorted scrap plastic materials for recycling.” Last month, 16 of these container vans have been sent to Subic Port to ease the congestion at the Port of Manila.

“I will not tolerate this matter sitting down. As a legislator, I filed for a congressional inquiry in aid of legislation into the unlawful importation of the 50 container vans filled with garbage. Clearly, this is a reflection of our dignity as a nation,” Paquiz said.

‘Outrageous’
“We find it outrageous that the primary government agency mandated to protect the environment is the main instigator of the proposal to have these illegal waste shipments disposed of in our shores. Why should Filipino taxpayers bear the burden associated with this illegal shipment?” EcoWaste’s Hernandez said.

The environment groups said that the government’s proposal sends a signal to unscrupulous and illegal waste traders to ship their unwanted junk to the Philippines.

“There can be no compromises here, this garbage shipment must be sent back to Canada, its country of origin. The Philippine government must do everything it can to prevent these incidents from happening ever again in the future, and it can start doing that by ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment,” Hernandez added.

Allowing the toxic waste shipment to be disposed of in Philippine territory will set a wrong precedent for other countries to follow suit, the environment groups said. They fear that the country is being primed to be the world’s toxic waste dumping site in the guise of “green jobs” for recycling.

The importation violates a number of local laws such as DENR Administrative Order 28 (Interim Guidelines for the Importation of Recyclable Materials Containing Hazardous Substances) and Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

 Criminal act

It also violates the Basel Convention, which prohibits illegal toxic waste trade and mandates such trade to be considered a criminal act. The Convention also requires the exporting country, in this case Canada, to return the illegally seized shipment and to pay the costs for the return.

“Pick up your garbage Canada, and show us the decency that we so rightfully deserve as a nation. My motherland is not a garbage bin of Canada,” Paquiz said.

In an effort to gain public attention on the issue, the coalition filed an online petition on change.org that drew 23,600 signers, more than half of whom are Canadians. The group is encouraging more people to sign the online petition to appeal to and urge the Canadian embassy in the Philippines to facilitate the pickup and return of the garbage back to Canadian soil.

Joining Ang Nars, BAN Toxics, Greenpeace, and Ecowaste Coalition are Mother Earth Foundation, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Convergence, and the Ateneo School of Government.

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