ENVIRONMENTAL advocates on Saturday scored visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his failure to put the lingering Canadian garbage controversy to rest.
Activist priest Robert Reyes, former representative Leah Paquizn of Ang Nars party-list, labor leader Joanna Bernice Coronacion, and zero waste advocate Aileen Lucero expressed dismay over the failure of the so-called “Canadian solution” to remove the tons of residual trash illegally sent to the Philippines from Canada under the guise of recycling.
On the sidelines of the APEC Summit held in the Philippines in 2015, Trudeau stated that a “Canadian solution [was]being developed” to plug the loopholes being used by private companies to ship garbage out of Canada, but he skirted the issue of taking back the illegal trash shipments as demanded by various quarters.
“Almost two years have passed since Prime Minister Trudeau talked about the so-called ‘Canadian solution’ and the garbage-filled container vans are still languishing in the Port of Manila,” Paquiz said in a press briefing at Eurotel EDSA in Quezon City.
“The real test of the efficacy of the ‘Canadian solution’ is the actual removal of these illegal trash shipments from our territory, the payment for the storage fees and other costs incurred, and the fixing of legal ambiguities that allowed the garbage to be shipped out of Canada,” she said.
“We further demand that both Canada and the Philippines should ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits the transboundary movement of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries even for recycling,” Paquiz added.
Activist priest Reyes said the “Canadian solution” is just a “hollow word.”
“It’s high time for the Prime Minister to do what is just and righteous, as his name Justin stands for, intercede and re-import the unlawful garbage consignments for environmentally-sound disposal in Canada,” he said.
Coronacion, deputy secretary general of the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa, for her part, said Trudeau’s response to the issue has been “lethargic.”
“We are awfully disappointed to say the least over the apparent failure of the Canadian government to correct a clear case of environmental injustice committed against our nation and people,” she added.
Lucero, national coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said Canada has enough resources and capability to manage its solid wastes without endangering public health and the environment.
“We hope PM Trudeau is not waiting for the discarded adult diapers, household wastes and mostly plastic residuals to break down in the container vans as that might take hundreds of years,” she added.
More than 100 containers
A total of 103 shipping containers of mixed household garbage declared as scrap plastics for recycling were exported to the Philippines from Canada in 2013-2014. The Bureau of Customs seized the said shipments by Canadian company Cronic Inc. to Filipino firm Chronic Plastics after being alerted by the Environmental Management Bureau about the misdeclared waste imports. The authorities eventually charged the consignee for violations of the country’s environmental, tariff and customs laws.
A waste analysis and characterization study conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed 64 percent of the shipments were “bailed municipal solid waste or garbage destined for immediate local disposal and cannot be recycled.”
Such garbage shipments, according to the DENR, “are strictly prohibited to be exported and are classified as Waste No. Y46 listed in Annex II of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.”
In June 2016, Judge Tita Bughao Alisuag of the Regional Trial Court of Manila (Branch 1) ordered the return of 50 shipping containers (about 1,400 tons) of illegal garbage imports from Canada, stressing that the Philippines is not a “trash bin” and that the dumping incident “should not be made a precedent for other countries to follow.”