THE conclusions from a Senate hearing this week on the circumstances by which 103 containers of trash from Canada found their way into the Philippines were the correct ones, and no less than anyone in this country should expect. The Senate tells the Aquino administration to do what it should have done with prodding: Demand that the Canadian government to take back their garbage, at their own expense. The Senate also wants the Department of Foreign Affairs censured for its weak and diffident handling what is now a more than two-year-old problem.
We will not criticize Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who introduced a resolution asking the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources to look into the matter, or the panel’s chairman, Sen. Chiz Escudero, for their tardiness in giving their attention to the issue, because the Senate frankly should not have to spend valuable time investigating such a stupidly simple problem. Even though we have clear laws covering this sort of thing – Sen. Marcos cited the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) and the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act (RA 6969) in his resolution – it should be a matter of basic common sense that garbage of any sort is not an acceptable import under any circumstances.
That common sense, however, seems to have escaped the Bureau of Customs, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the DFA, and most of all, the importer (who has not yet been identified) of the unwelcome cargo. All of those concerned have violated our laws and wasted the people’s time and money, and they should be sanctioned appropriately.
Whatever misbehavior occurred here, however, does not in any way reduce or eliminate Canada’s ultimate responsibility for the problem. And for the Canadian government—one which the Philippines otherwise has an excellent relationship with, and for the most part has a reputation for being sensitive to environmental issues, at least outside its own country—to plead helplessness to apply the simple solution of arranging for its unwanted trash to be picked up and returned to its sender is a shocking disappointment. It is particularly distressing that Canada has taken this attitude now, at a time when climate issues and their impact on developing nations are again coming to the fore in discussions leading up to the global climate summit to be held in Paris at the end of this year.
One would think that even if Canada honestly does not see the obvious problem with sending massive amounts of garbage to a country that is already struggling with various ecological challenges, the inevitability of being the subject of a great deal of bad publicity should have made the Canadian officials concerned with this issue should have been more proactive.
Shame on you, Canada. We thought you were better than this. Whatever our unassertive diplomatic officials have to say about the matter, we demand, on behalf of the people of the Philippines, that you take back your trash without further delay.