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Ban on trash shipments eyed in wake of garbage dumping

A bill calling for a total ban on the import and export of waste was filed Monday morning at the House of Representatives while over in Misamis Oriental the Bureau of Customs held a send-off ceremony for garbage being returned to Hong Kong.

Misamis Oriental 2nd District Rep. Juliette Uy said in the explanatory note of HB 9207, that the country is “awash with millions of tons of solid wastes, liquefied wastes, and toxic wastes. Our rivers, lakes, seashores, and seas are massively polluted by these wastes. Our cities, factories, and homes produce garbage like there’s no tomorrow.

“We already have a lot of our own garbage. The more garbage we produce, the shorter and more polluted our tomorrows will become. We certainly need not import any more garbage,” he added.

Uy noted that “the Members of this Congress have not been remiss in their duty. There are dozens of pending bills and resolutions addressing the massive problems of solid waste management and air pollution we face.”

“As we are all aware by now, at the Port of Tagoloan in Misamis Oriental, there still are over 5,000 tons of garbage yet to be returned to South Korea. Add to that the so-called municipal waste—processed fuel from Australia and another shipment from Hong Kong.”

Uy said she filed HB 9207 because she wants to put a stop to “the practice of other countries and companies overseas of sending their garbage to the Philippines [which] is an insult to all Filipinos and an affront to our laws.”

Meanwhile, the 40-foot container van containing shredded gadgets and computers from Hong Kong, is being sent back today from the Mindanao International Container Terminal. The shipment has apparently been in the terminal since Jan. 2, but only discovered on May 22.

MICT Port Collector John Simon officiated the reexport to Hong Kong of 2.561 tons of mixed plastic waste packed in 22 sling bags that were wrongly declared as “assorted electronic accessories.”

The illegal traffic waste will be returned to Hong Kong via the container ship SITC Nagoya.

The reexport was witnessed by the representatives of the Bureau of Customs Region 10, Environmental Management Bureau Region 10, and civil society groups led by the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Today, we are shipping back one container van of mixed garbage consisting mostly of plastic scraps and shredded electronic parts to their source. The export of this hazardous waste from Hong Kong in the guise of ‘assorted electronic accessories’ is illegal under the laws of Hong Kong and the Philippines and the Basel Convention,” Simon said.

“In line with the mission of the BOC to strengthen efforts against smuggling and other Customs fraud, we are returning this unlawful shipment to protect our nation’s health and the environment,” he added.

“We find it very disturbing that illegal waste cargoes are entering the country through the region’s ports. This alarming trend is totally unacceptable and should discontinue as soon as possible. Mindanao is not a garbage bin,” said Atty. Mark Petalver, Program Coordinator, Interface Development Interventions Inc., a Davao City-based environmental NGO.

“By quickly returning the illegal waste shipment and skipping bureaucratic delay, our nation is sending a clear and unambiguous warning to waste traffickers to stop sending other countries’ wastes into our ports,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. “We heaved a sigh of relief as the entry of some 70 containers of similar trash was aborted with the seizure of this test cargo.”

 “The strong presence of local civil society groups in this important event indicates a growing concern among Mindanaoans against the use of the region’s ports as entry points for waste imports from overseas. We encourage them, the local authorities and the general public to keep a close watch over illegal waste traffic in the region,” she added.

EcoWaste Coalition also renewed its call for a comprehensive and immediate ban on waste imports and for the rapid ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment.

The Basel Ban Amendment, which has yet to enter into force, aims to prohibit the export of hazardous wastes and other wastes from developed to developing countries for any reason, including recycling. From the list of eligible countries, including the Philippines, only two more country ratifications are needed for the amendment to enter into force.

Aside from the EcoWaste Coalition and IDIS, the other groups present during the send-off rites were Agro-Eco Philippines, Bantay Bukid, Bantayo Aweg, Ecoteneo, Mindanao Youth Development Center Inc., No Burn Pilipinas, Student Organization of Marine Engineering, Sustainable Davao Movement, United States Government Alumni Association Davao, and the YSEALI Davao Hub.

Lea Guerrero, Country Director, Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Philippines, said that “we commend our Customs inspectors for spotting this illegal waste shipment, and the quick action on the return of the waste to Hong Kong. In contrast to the return of the Canada waste last week, this shipment is being sent back in full transparency, and with the presence of civil society and media.

“While it is a good thing that this waste shipment was discovered, preventing the entry of other waste shipments from Hong Kong, this and the other similar cases are a clear indication that the Philippines is wide open to illicit waste importation. We see a pattern of misdeclaration, falsified documents, fake businesses, and loose regulatory systems that allow this to happen. What about the waste shipments that have escaped inspection?

“As a first step, the government needs to implement a comprehensive ban on waste shipments and ratify the Basel Ban Amendment. However, we also need to plug internal holes in the system—whether faulty regulations, inadequate monitoring, or corruption. Otherwise, we will continue to be at the receiving end of waste shipments—and worse, unable to hold responsible countries and parties accountable.”

READ: Trash returning to sender

READ: Groups laud return of Canada trash

Topics: House of Representatives , Misamis Oriental , Bureau of Customs , garbage , Juliette U
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