MANILA — Seven 40-foot container vans of "misdeclared municipal trash" from Australia arrived in a port in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental on May 7, an official of Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) confirmed Thursday.
"Seven containers ang aming nakita na ang tawag ng consignee or importer ay processed engineered fuel (PEF)... But we beg to disagree. This is what we called in Customs as municipal waste," MICT port collector John Simon told ABS-CBN News in phone interview.
Simon identified the consignee to be Holcim Philippines Incorporated, whose cement plant is located in Lugait town.
In Customs parlance, Simon described "municipal trash" as the kind of garbage found in streets of any municipality.
"Ito 'yung basura mong makukuha sa isang siyudad... Parang basura sa kalsada ng Maynila, 'yan ang municipal waste. Dinurog na ganon," he said.
"Ang question dito, kailangan ba tayong tumanggap ng basura sa ibang bansa? May mga municipal waste dito hindi ba," he added.
The cargoes arrived in Tagoloan on May 7 but was only inspected on May 14. Upon inspection, the container vans contained sacks of shredded and compressed waste materials.
According to Simon, the shipment was declared as "Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF) and municipal waste."
"Dapat ang tariff classification ay mag-jive sa deklarasyon. Kapag hindi mag-jive 'yun at hindi consistent, mali 'yun. Hindi puwede na dalawa [ang i-declare na item]. It's either [municipal waste] or sa [PEF]. And it has to be consistent," said Simon.
Based on the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, PEF is not included on the list of imported materials allowed in the Philippines.
Cleared by EMB?
The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reported after their inspection that the shipment contained "pieces of assorted scrap plastic, cellphone, wrappers, chuncks of hard plastic, textile, fibers, wood chips, glass cullet, stones, soil, paper and other shredded waste materials."
"Based on DENR executive order 2010-06, hindi na kailangan ng importation clearance mula sa DENR kung mag-iimport ng processed waste materials na gagamitin bilang alternative fuel sa pagawaan ng semento," said EMB-10 regional director Reynaldo Digamo.
Holcim Philippines Inc. maintained that the materials held at MICT are PEF and were accurately and truthfully declared.
"The company uses co-processing technology, wherein qualified materials such as non-recyclable plastics, rubber, textiles, cardboard and wood are used as an alternative to coal in making cement through waste management unit Geocycle," read the statement.
"Since 2010, Geocycle has transformed more than 25,000 metric tons of non-recyclable plastic wastes from various industrial partners and local governments as alternative fuel to replace coal and prevents these from ending up in landfills."
Digamo said that Holcim has accredited facilities to use alternative fuels.
"Holcim has a registration from EMB for treatment, storage, and disposal of even hazardous waste materials," added Digamo.
However, MICT insisted that the shipment should be "declared properly."
Holcim is among of the companies granted by BOC with super green lane (SGL), a privilege for faster processing of imported cargoes.
SGL-accredited companies are also exempted from inspection at port entries.
"This is also an eye opener for the people in [BOC central office]. They shouldn’t just provide accreditation or give entitlements kung hindi naman nila nakikita ang actual cargoes that come," said Simon.
MICT recommended to BOC central office to issue warrant of seizure and detention for the shipment and wanted involved parties to be held liable, including the broker who also happened to be the broker of the waste materials from South Korea that was delivered last year at a recycling facility in Tagoloan.
During a press briefing Thursday, Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the government was "offended," adding the country is no "dumping ground of trash."
"It will be offensive to this government to be recipient of trash. We are offended by that. We will not allow it. We will send them back," Panelo told Palace reporters.
Environment group Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Philippines said the importation of Australian trash was "unacceptable, reprehensible and deplorable."
"The Australian trash in Misamis Oriental is unacceptable, reprehensible and deplorable. Why do we need to repeatedly remind the world that we are not a garbage dump? The Philippines is still reeling from the issue of Canadian waste that, after more than half a decade, the Canadian government is still not taking responsibility for."
The group was pertaining to a total of 103 containers of Canadian waste that were shipped to Manila in batches, from 2013 to 2014.
—Reports from Rod Bolivar and Joyce Balancio, ABS-CBN News