Canada, PH officials meet over trash issue

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 14 2018 09:28 PM | Updated as of Nov 14 2018 11:33 PM

MANILA - Representatives from the Canadian embassy on Tuesday met with officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to discuss the illegal shipment of wastes to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014.

DENR Undersecretary for solid waste management Benny Antiporda told ABS-CBN News the outcome of the meeting was “positive” despite uncertainty on when the container vans, loaded with hazardous wastes, may be shipped back to Canadian soil. 

“As of the moment, we have a positive development on the issue. Ang ganda ng nangyayari. Kahapon, nagpadala rin ng mga tao ang Canadian embassy para makipag-usap din sa atin kung paano nga masosolusyunan ito wherein may nakikita tayong positibo na malaki ang tsansa na maibalik ito sa point of origin (Canada),” he said. 

Then Customs Commissioner Ariel Nepomuceno (2nd left) inspects on February 10, 2014 one of 50 container vans containing tons of garbage that are being kept on hold at the container port in Manila. The shipment from Canada was declared as plastic scraps but contained household trash instead. 

The illegal shipment, consisting of household trash, plastic bottles and bags, newspapers, and used adult diapers, among others, arrived in the Philippines in batches in 2013 and 2014.

Under Republic Act (RA) No. 6969, also known as the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste and Control Act, these items are considered hazardous wastes. 

Antiporda explained that an ongoing trial over the shipment bars parties from taking it out of the Philippines. 

“Naghihintay lang po tayo ng desisyon ng korte. Ito po yung ikinalulungkot po namin na sa kasalukuyan, meron pong existing na kaso kung kaya’t hindi po natin magalaw itong mga ebidensya pero rest assured na ang taumbayan po, kung ano po yung gusto nilang mangayari na mailabas sa ating bansa, ito din po ang ipinaglalaban ng DENR.

“Ipinangangako naman po namin na ginagawa namin lahat ng makakaya namin para ito po’y maibalalik dahil ito po’y ipinasok sa isang iligal na paraan,” he said.

Only 16 container vans of the original shipment load remain under government custody: 15 at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, and one at the Manila International Container Port (MICP). 

A total of 50 container vans arrived in batches from June to August 2013 at the MICP, while 48 container vans also arrived in batches from December 2013 to January 2014. 

“Hindi po natin magagalaw kung kaya’t umabot ito ng limang taon na po pero still hindi ho natin hahayaan na maging literal na basurahan ang ating bansa. Yan po’y hindi pinapayagan ng ating [DENR] Secretary Roy Cimatu. Ang kanya po talagang marching order is gawan ng paraan na maibalik yan kung saan nanggaling," Antiporda said. 

TRASH FROM SOUTH KOREA 

In a related development, the DENR said it will be coordinating with South Korean firm Verde Soko II Industrial Corp. for the return to South Korea of its 5,100-ton garbage shipment which arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Misamis Oriental last July 21. 

“Meron po kaming nakikitang medyo obstacle dito dahil hanggang sa kasalukuyan, lumalabas na ito po’y nasa ilalim pa rin ng pangangasiwa ng Bureau of Customs… But basically, we will coordinate with [the importing firm and Bureau of Customs] para madesisyunan na po at para ho magawan ng hakbang paano ito maibalik naman sa Korea,” Antiporda said. 

He added that government is bent on pursuing legal action over the illegal waste importation, even though litigation is delaying the effort to take the shipment out of the Philippines. 

BASEL CONVENTION

Antiporda said the Canadian and South Korean garbage have to be shipped back to its ports of origin. This is based on the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wasted and Their Disposal, which the two countries are signatories of. 

The international treaty, which took force and effect in 1992, intends to reduce hazardous waste generation and the promotion of environmentally sound hazardous waste management. It also restricts transboundary movements of hazardous wastes (except where it is perceived to be in accordance with the principles of environmentally sound management), and is a regulatory system that applies to cases where transboundary movements are permissible. 

NO MORE GARBAGE IMPORTATION

Meantime, environmental advocacy group Ecowaste Coalition called on the government to prohibit the entry of imported garbage to Philippine shores in light of the Canadian and South Korean garbage controversy. 

"Why do we keep on accepting garbage from other countries when we know that our country's plastic waste, which is literally everywhere, is spilling to the oceans and endangering marine life?," National Coordinator Aileen Lucero said in a statement.

"It's high time for the Philippines to disallow garbage imports and to demand that developed countries, as well as manufacturers of plastics and other disposable goods, take full responsibility for their products throughout their whole life cycle.”