With only few months left of his term, a waste and pollution watchdog urged outgoing President Benigno Aquino III to resolve the unfinished business of Canadian garbage languishing in the port of Manila.
“With his presidency about to end on June 30, we urge Pres. Aquino to put this dumping scandal that has infuriated the Filipino nation to its conclusion,” said Rene Pineda, Vice-President, EcoWaste Coalition.
“We hope that the illegal garbage shipments would be finally returned to Canada before he steps down and hands over power to his successor. The new president will surely have his or her hands full and this environmental justice issue, we hope, will not add to his or her heavy load,” he said.
Among the presidential candidates, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte were most vocal in denouncing the illegal garbage importation and in seeking for their return to Canada.
From June 2013 to January 2014, a total of 103 container vans of mixed garbage from Canada, misdeclared as “plastic scraps” for recycling, entered the country in 10 batches and subsequently intercepted by customs authorities.
After sitting in the port for months, 26 containers of these trash consignments were illegally disposed of at the Metro Clark Landfill in Tarlac, Aquino's home province, between June 26 to July 8, 2015, angering local officials and residents.
Tarlac’s vociferous objections triggered preemptive moves by other local government units to bar foreign garbage in local landfills to safeguard the public health and the environment.
“It’s unfortunate that President Aquino missed two key opportunities to get the problem settled when he met former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa and his successor Justin Trudeau in Manila,” Pineda pointed out.
President Aquino kept the illegal garbage importation out of the official agenda for his state visit to Canada in May 2015 and during his bilateral meeting with Trudeau on the fringe of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit last November 2015.
Last November 19, Trudeau at a press conference announced that a “Canadian solution” is being crafted to plug the loopholes that allowed the export of Canadian trash to the Philippines, but was non-committal in taking the garbage back as demanded by legislative, church, trade union and civil society leaders and by concerned citizens.
Various groups have been asking the Aquino administration to ratify the “Basel Ban Amendment” to deter dumping of hazardous and other wastes from abroad.
This proposed amendment to the “Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal” prohibits highly industrialized countries from exporting hazardous wastes to developing countries “for final disposal, reuse, recycling and recovery.”
“Unless the Philippine government ratifies the ‘Basel Ban Amendment’ and reflects its intent in our national laws, the country will continue to be a recipient of hazardous garbage from overseas, made possible under the guise of recycling or recovery,“ the EcoWaste Coalition said.
In September 2014, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago filed a resolution calling for “an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on ways to decisively prevent illegal waste dumping from abroad, including the ratification of the ‘Basel Convention Ban Amendment’ and other legal measures to protect the country from becoming a global dump for hazardous wastes.”
Link to Proclamation 760 (Zero Waste Month):
Link to Senate Resolution 919 (Illegal Waste Dumping from Overseas)