Groups Nudge Government to Forbid E-Waste Imports Following Thai Ban

As the International E-Waste Day is observed tomorrow, October 14,  environmental health groups EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace nudged the government of the Philippines to ban the importation of electronic waste, or e-waste, like what Thailand has recently done.

“The Thai policy banning the entry of e-waste was imposed to protect public health and the environment from toxic pollution resulting from the dirty recycling of these hazardous waste imports.  It’s high time for our own government to follow in the footsteps of Thailand and enact a sweeping ban on the importation of e-waste, plastic waste and other wastes for environmental health and justice,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“With our neighbors closing doors to all kinds of waste imports, our country is in danger of becoming the most preferred destination in the region for waste. The Philippine government must plug all holes that allow our country to be a dumping ground by ratifying the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and enacting a total ban on waste imports,” said Marian Ledesma, Campaigner, Greenpeace Philippines.

The sweeping prohibition on waste imports, the groups asserted, will serve as a strong deterrent against schemes to transfer hazardous waste and other wastes from other countries to the Philippines where such wastes can be cheaply processed, recycled or disposed of at the expense of people’s health and the environment.

The groups cited the botched smuggling of e-waste -- falsely declared as “assorted electronic accessories” -- from Hong Kong that was discovered at a port in Northern Mindanao in May 2019.  As reported by customs officials, the shipment was intended as a “test cargo,” and that 70 more containers would have followed had it not been intercepted. The trash was returned quickly to the sender after its discovery.

Both groups are pushing for the ratification by the Duterte administration of the Basel Convention Ban Amendment, an international law prohibiting the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries, and for the imposition of a more encompassing ban on waste importation.

According to the groups, ratifying the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and banning waste importation on the whole will allow the Philippines to focus on its own waste management issues, fully enforce waste and pollution prevention laws, and improve clean recycling facilities with government support and possibly incentives.

Adopting these twin measures, the groups added, will encourage the enactment of other essential policies and regulations to prevent and reduce  waste generation, including the ban on single-use plastics, the promotion of reuse and refill systems, the adoption of extended producer responsibility and other strategies toward clean production, zero waste and a toxics-free society.

Additional Information:
Last September 15, the Thai Ministry of Commerce announced the start of a historic ban on the importation of 428 types of electric and electronic components and scraps.

Violators will be jailed for up to 10 years, or fined five times the price of the illegal waste import, or both.

As reported by Bangkok Post, the government will also carry out activities “to encourage public participation in environmental protection” as it urged all sectors “to hasten efforts to improve the efficiency in handling domestic e-waste, optimize resources and recycle properly.”

Last year, the EcoWaste Coalition wrote to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu to reiterate the need to ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and to propose a comprehensive ban on the importation of wastes, including plastic and electronic wastes, which is still allowed under DENR A.O. 2013-22.

DENR A.O. 2013-22 permits the importation of “recyclable materials” such as scrap metals, scrap plastics, electronic assemblies and scrap, used oil and fly ash subject to certain limiting conditions and compliance to the requirements set by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

Environmental health groups participated in stakeholders’ meetings convened by the EMB to push for the ratification of the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and the revision of DENR A.O. 2013-22, insisting that the Philippines must take a strong stand to put a stop to waste dumping from overseas.