PDI Editorial: We are not a dumping ground
Philippine Daily Inquirer
24 January 2021
WE ARE NOT A DUMPING GROUND
As the country observes Zero Waste Month, a piece of happy news for a change: A customs official was honored this week for standing up and pushing back against the dumping of foreign waste – a problem that advocates warn will continue to pile up if the government does not heed calls to enact crucial policies, including a comprehensive ban on all waste imports.
The environmental watchdog EcoWaste Coalition lauded John Simon, Bureau of Customs (BOC) district collector from Northern Mindanao, and gave him the Environmental Justice Award for his “exemplary leadership, unfaltering dedication and focused action to protect public health and the environment from hazardous waste from overseas,” which led to the return of 7,408 metric tons of illegal waste shipments to South Korea.
Simon will be receiving an award from the United Nations Environment Programme next month, as well as the 2020 Asia Environmental Enforcement Award by the World Customs Organization – a first in BOC’s history.
Simon proves that there are men and women in government who remain committed and principled public servants. As EcoWaste Coalition president Eileen Sison noted in a statement, Simon work doggedly to “uphold our country’s tariff and customs and environmental laws…” He initiated bilateral negotiations with
shortly after the consignee failed to
secure import permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
for the trash, which was misdeclared as “plastic synthetic flakes.” The waste imports arrived from South
Korea , in two batches at the
Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan in 2018, and were sent back in seven
batches packed in 364 containers between Jan. 13, 2019 and Sept. 15, 2020, even
amid the COVID-19 pandemic and despite complex diplomatic channels. Pyeongtaek City, South Korea
In his message acknowledging the recognition bestowed on him, Simon said ‘(e)nvironmental justice demands that we assert our sovereign right not to be treated as dumping ground for wastes from abroad that can put the health of our people and that of our ecosystems in harm’s way.”
In the report “Waste Trade in the
released in March last year, Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition
warned that “various other waste shipments – municipal or toxic waste, from all
around the world – were regularly entering the country through both legal and
illegal means.” And the Philippines ,
the report said, will remain a preferred destination for waste shipments as
long as the government continues to refuse calls to enforce a comprehensive ban
on all waste imports. Philippines
Advocates point to loopholes in the laws that have made the country “wide open” to both legal and “legitimized” waste trade, particularly those that ban only hazardous and toxic wastes while allowing other types of wastes such as plastic bottles, electronic and electrical equipment, used batteries, etc., to still be imported and subsequently processed, whether through recycling or disposal.
“The country will remain vulnerable to continued exploitation if it does not take policy measures to close its borders against waste trade,” the Greenpeace/EcoWaste report stated, further noting that while Asean states such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei have ratified the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits the importation of hazardous wastes from developed to less developed ones, the Philippines has yet to take action on it. It added that the country must immediately enforce a comprehensive ban on all waste importation.
Simon – the country’s first Environmental Justice awardee – expressed hopes that his award would inspire others to persevere in protecting the country’s borders from foreign waste dumping, because the job “is too big for one agency to accomplish.” Will other government officials heed his call?