PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd said the government is seriously pursuing charges against the importer and customs agents who allowed the entry of hazardous wastes from Canada.
“Currently, the prosecution and the BOC [Bureau of Customs] are pursuing the necessary inventory, documentation, and photographing of the wastes prior to its disposal, to be used as evidence in the trial against the accused,” Aquino said in one of his last interviews prior to his flight back to Manila from Canada.
A technical working group composed of officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, BOC and Department of Justice oversees the proper disposal of the cargo that has been rotting at the Port of Manila for two years. The smelly shipment of 50 container vans arrived in batches starting June 2013. Some of the vans contained plastic bottles, plastic bags, newspapers, household garbage and used adult diapers.
The BOC filed a complaint against Philippine-based importer Chronic Plastics for smuggling in the garbage, which was misdeclared as “plastic scraps” intended for recycling.
Although he admitted that the waste shipment poses a risk to public health, Aquino said the trash will not be returned to Canada but will be incinerated or buried in a landfill.
“As soon as the court allows them to, they want to dispose of the same either through cement kiln co-processing, I assume that means incineration or direct disposal in a landfill. The processing and disposal of the wastes will be conducted once the necessary court order has been obtained,” the President said.
But advocates for clean air and zero waste slammed the president for allowing the incineration of the imported waste.
EcoWaste Coalition coordinator Aileen Lucero said instead of standing up for the country’s sovereign right not to be treated as a dumping ground, Aquino approved the disposal of Canada’s garbage.
“What a total let down. It’s a bizarre stance coming from a country with a gargantuan garbage problem to deal with and we deplore it,” Lucero said.
“Instead of getting Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s nod to abide by his government’s responsibility to re-import the illegal waste shipment of mixed plastics, e-wastes and residual rubbish, including adult diapers, President Aquino chose to kowtow to Canada’s pressure to have their trash disposed of locally,” she added. “Is this how spineless our leaders have become that they can easily forget about our national dignity and well-being and succumb to Canada’s pressure in exchange for more investments?”
Environmental justice group BAN Toxics also expressed fear that the decision to bury or incinerate the garbage will set a precedent for other rich countries.
Various sectors have pointed out that the illegal shipment is an international crime under the Basel Convention, to which Canada and the Philippines are parties.