14 February 2014

Local, Canadian Envi Groups Blast Illegal Waste Importation

Local and Canadian environment and zero waste advocates today express disgust over the attempted importation of mixed hazardous waste deceitfully declared as plastic scraps that were fortunately intercepted by the Bureau of Customs.

"We condemn in strongest possible terms this unabashed attempt to dump hazardous waste misrepresented as recyclable plastic into our country," said Romy Hidalgo, an official of EcoWaste Coalition and NGO Representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission, reiterating that "we are not a garbage dump.”

"This botched illegal importation violates our Constitution and our major environmental laws, including R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which prohibits the importation of toxic waste disguised as ‘recyclable’ or ‘with recyclable content,” he pointed out.

“It further undermines complementary efforts of LGUs and Congress to reduce waste, specifically plastic waste.  On one hand, here we are uniting to address our increasing plastic waste problems, while on the other, there are efforts like this that aggravate the situation," he added.

Presently, more than 90 LGUs around the country have enacted plastic bag bans, and a national ban is currently being drafted in the legislative department.  Waste audits conducted by environmental groups over the years has revealed that about 75% of detritus found in Manila Bay is composed of plastic waste, 25% of which are plastic bags.

For their part, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternative's Shalimar Vitan lamented that, "countries like Canada may be beginning to think that the Philippines is the mythical 'away' of their 'throw-away' culture.  No community, let alone a country, deserves to be unjustly treated as a dumping ground.  No community is disposable."

"Our national government should sustain vigilance to ensure this does not happen again," she added.

In support of their Filipino counterparts, Canadian activists also expressed their dismay over the illegal importation of those 50 container vans of waste.

Buddy Boyd of Zero Waste Canada added that, "we as people of Canada are deeply embarrassed at how government policies here have caused such bad behaviour by some towards the environment and the good people of the Philippines.  This is a disgrace.  The governments of Canada have created such horrible collection methods that the materials collected are often so badly contaminated many of the greedy haulers think they can export our mess onto other nations.  We stand with our brothers and sisters in the Philippines who care about the environment and we apologize as some governments here [in Canada] see the planet as a 'toilet' and our many neighbouring countries as merely a 'cheap dumping ground'.  Something is terribly wrong here in Canada."

On the other hand, Atty. Richard Gutierrez of BAN Toxics demanded that, "while we commend the Bureau of Customs for catching the illegal shipment, we urge the Philippine government to address the issue in a holistic manner by ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment to include all hazardous waste and exports for recycling in the prohibition."

Activists from Whitby, Ontario in the Durham Region in Canada, the alleged source of the shipment, echoed the sentiments of their Filipino allies.  "Whitby and Durham Councils and the Province of Ontario for that matter should press the federal government to ratify the said amendment to prevent Canadian/Ontario entities from shipping out unwanted discards to developing countries, including potentially hazardous mixed plastic scraps disguised as recyclable plastics," said Linda Gasser of Zero Waste for Zero Burning Canada.

Basel Convention is an international treaty designed to reduce traffic of hazardous waste between and among nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries.  While Philippines and Canada are signatories to the convention, both have yet to ratify the Basel Amendment which expanded the ban of shipments to wastes meant for recycling.

Aside from urgently returning this illegal shipment to their sender, the groups also demanded that the DENR notifies its counterpart Environment Canada for the violation and press proper charges against the Canadian shipper and Philippine consignee.  

“We will closely monitor how our government will respond to this incident,” concluded Hidalgo of the EcoWaste Coalition.

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