Groups Ask DENR to Junk “Garbage Diplomacy,” Pursue Legal Action to Compel Canada to Re-Import Its Trash

Amid a hail of brickbats and stones against the government’s handling of Canadian garbage dumping on our shores, environmental health and justice groups pressed the Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) to take legal action to oblige Canada to get back their reeking trash. 

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy urged the DENR to ditch what has been ridiculed as “garbage diplomacy” after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)at a news briefing yesterday said the DFA would support a legal action against Canada if the DENR decides to do so.

DFA spokesperson Charles Jose confirmed that the DFA sent a note verbale in 2014 to the Canadian Embassy conveying that the shipment of wastes from Canada as stated by the DENR constituted a violation of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

“As DFA is clearly passing the buck and attempting to pin the blame on DENR, that leaves the latter the duty to explain to the nation why it had to decide to act inimical to the interest of the nation,” said Rene Pineda, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“DENR should refrain from arguing from the perspective of diplomacy as it is not its mandate and function, and DFA has a contrary position.  As the lead agency for environmental protection, we ask the DENR to stop mouthing a diplomatic argument and insist that our country is not Canada’s dumpsite,” he pointed out.

“We would prefer fighting and even losing for our right as a sovereign nation than suffer the dire consequences of potential hazards to health and life and be the laughing stock of the world for easily giving up our right,” he emphasized.

For her part, Dr. Angelina Galang, President of Green Convergence, said: “The ball is now in the DENR.  We urge Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to map out a robust legal strategy to get rid of the illegal garbage imports from Canada that President Benigno Aquino III can announce at his State of the Nation Address on Monday.” 

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, had earlier proposed that the government should consider the Basel Convention in negotiating with the Canadian authorities over the illegal garbage imports, saying that “the arduousness of complaint or arbitration mechanisms before an international tribunal should not hinder the government from asserting that the export of wastes from Canada violates the Basel Convention.”

To stop the recurrence of garbage dumping from overseas, the EcoWaste Coalition, Green Convergence and other environmental groups reiterated the need for the Philippine government to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which seeks to prohibit exports of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries for final disposal, reuse, recycling and recovery.