There are piles and piles of garbage everywhere— in government, in politics and literally, at the Port of Manila, Subic Port, and now in Capas, Tarlac.
But this is not about the foul odor of politics and government. This is about the vans of garbage imported from Canada in 2013.
The news says the vans opened by the Bureau of Customs contain plastic bottles, plastic bags, newspapers, household garbage, and used adult diapers.
These waste materials, according to BAN Toxics, a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote environmental justice in Southeast Asia, says these waste materials are classified as hazardous under the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste and Control Act of 1990 (RA 6969).
BAN Toxics further says the shipment was illegal and is “in violation of the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, an international treaty that regulates toxic waste and other wastes to which both Canada and the Philippines are parties to.”
But the Energy Department says otherwise. USec. Jonas Leones of the DENR Environmental Management Bureau in one of our interviews over DZRH said, the trash, though not recyclable, is not toxic using international standards.
Apparently, there is inconsistency between the garbage classification made by DENR and BAN Toxics. So which group is telling the truth?
On the other hand, residents of the towns of Bamban and Capas, Tarlac are now complaining of stench of rotting garbage. And regardless of the classification of these huge vans of garbage, we cannot deny the health risks these could bring to the residents, especially on children.
This is not the first time wastes were sent to the Philippines in the guise of “recycling.”
In July 1999, hazardous wastes from Japan were discovered neatly packed in 124 40-foot container vans at the Port of Manila. The consignee, Sinsei Enterprises, declared the shipment as waste paper for recycling. However, upon inspection, port authorities discovered that the vans contained hazardous, toxic and infectious clinical wastes. Among the waste found by the port authorities were needles for intravenous injections, medical rubber hose and tubes, used adult and baby diapers, used sanitary napkins, discarded intravenous syringes and dextrose, garments, bandages. There were also electronic equipment, PVC plastic materials mixed with industrial and household wastes, styropor packaging materials, sacks, plastic sheets, PVC pipes, plastic packaging materials, paper, and plastic food packaging materials.
Sometime in 1994, lead acid batteries from Japan were also reported to have been legally imported for recycling by battery firms. Likewise, old Japanese ships containing hazardous materials have also been imported and recycled in of Cebu.
Luckily in 2009, the Japanese government cooperated with the Philippine Government for the immediate repatriation of their wastes.
But the Canadian Government is different. Instead of following agreements stipulated in the Basel Convention which requires return of wastes to the country of origin and to which it is a signatory, Canada wants its wastes processed in the Philippines. Sadly, USec. Leones says it is likely that we will do as Canada says.
Why? So as not to cut diplomatic relations? But wasn’t the act of Canada, allowing illegal exportation of its non-recyclable wastes to the Philippines, an utter disregard of diplomatic ties? Is the Aquino administration willing to sacrifice the health and safety of the Filipinos just to preserve its ties with other wealthier countries?
Our internal garbage situation is not even manageable. We have overflowing landfills and dumpsites. Our garbage even have killed hundreds of people and destroyed billions worth of properties because of clogged wastewater ways in Metro Manila in the previous years.
Data from the National Solid Waste Management Commission says the amount of waste generated by the entire country daily rose from 38,092 tons in 2013 to 38,757 tons in 2014. It is likewise feared that the volume of garbage will climb to 40,087 tons in 2016.
Despite this, we accept garbage from other countries. We allow importations of garbage with the DENR giving permit to do so relying merely on the declaration of the importer that what are being imported are recyclable materials. And before we knew it, huge container vans of hazardous wastes are now in the country, with importers earning huge amount of money for making our country the dumping ground.
It’s time the DENR reviews its policy in giving importation clearance. It is likewise more imperative for the Philippine government to take action now and use all bilateral and international avenues to make sure the country does not become the dumping ground for hazardous wastes under the guise of recycling.
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