Quezon City – In a damning exposé of the government’s lack of political will, environmental and public health groups held a press conference today to uncover the plan of government agencies to dispose of the illegally dumped Canadian toxic wastes in the Philippines.
The groups revealed that several government agencies led by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Bureau of Customs are keen on disposing the illegally dumped Canadian toxic waste in the country instead of fighting to have it sent back to Canada for violating international law.
"I will not tolerate this matter sitting down. As a legislator, I filed for a Congressional Inquiry in aid of legislation the unlawful importation of the 50 container vans filled with garbage. Clearly, this (dumping of wastes in our country) is a reflection of our dignity as a nation,” said Rep. Leah Paquiz of Ang Nars Party-list.
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized 50 container vans containing various waste materials and hazardous wastes imported from Canada, with the consignee Chronic Plastics, Inc. declaring the shipment as ‘assorted scrap plastic materials for recycling’. Last month, 16 container vans have been sent to Subic Port to ease the congested Port of Manila.
“The unauthorized movement of the illegal shipments to Subic is proof that plans are afoot to have the waste shipments disposed in country. The letter from the DENR reinforces and confirms this duplicitous intent on the part of our government authorities. We find it outrageous that the primary government agency mandated to protect the environment is the main instigator of the proposal to have these illegal waste shipments disposed of in our shores. Why should Filipino taxpayers bear the burden associated with this illegal shipment?” said Von Hernandez, president of EcoWaste Coalition and executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
“This government proposal sends a signal to unscrupulous and illegal waste traders to ship their unwanted junk to the Philippines. There can be no compromises here, this garbage shipment must be sent back to Canada, its country of origin. The Philippine government must do everything it can to prevent these incidents from happening ever again in the future, and it can start doing that by ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment.” Hernandez added.
The groups decry that allowing the toxic waste shipment to be disposed of in Philippine territory will set a wrong precedent for other countries to follow suit. They fear that the country is being primed to be the world’s toxic waste dumping site in the guise of “green jobs” for recycling.
“Illegal toxic waste trade is an international crime. It is no different from dealing in illegal drugs, endangered species, and other forms of trade that the international community has deemed noxious,”explained Atty. Richard Gutierrez, executive director of BAN Toxics.
“Why our government is even contemplating on accepting these illegal wastes when international law is behind us is exasperating.” Gutierrez added.
The importation violates a number of local laws such as the DENR Administrative Order 28 (Interim Guidelines for the Importation of Recyclable Materials Containing Hazardous Substances) and Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.
It also violates the Basel Convention, which prohibits illegal toxic waste trade and mandates such trade to be considered a criminal act. The Convention also requires the exporting country, in this case Canada, to return the illegally seized shipment and to pay the costs for the return.
“Pick up your garbage Canada, and show us the decency that we so rightfully deserve as a nation. My motherland is not a garbage bin of Canada. " Paquiz said.
Joining Ang Nars, BAN Toxics, Greenpeace, and Ecowaste Coalition are Mother Earth Foundation, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, and Green Convergence.