Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Saturday pushed for a measure seeking to impose a total ban on waste importation and prosecute violators with hefty fines or jail term of up to 12 years.
Drilon’s Senate Bill No. 18 or the Waste Importation Ban Act of 2019 prohibits all waste imports, including recyclable materials, from entering the Philippines.
The senator came up with the measure on the heels of numerous reports showing that the country is becoming a dumpsite of foreign waste.
He cited how the recent Canadian garbage inside the 103 shipping containers found its way to Philippine shores and how our country has become a cross boundary disposal site of unwanted and toxic shipments of waste from waste exporters like Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan.
Drilon explained that under his bill, not even recyclable materials can enter the Philippines, pointing out how unscrupulous individuals were using loopholes in existing laws to bring other nations’ garbage into the country.
Drilon’s bill also mandates that all imported wastes shall be immediately brought back to the country of origin at the expense of the consignor or importer.
“The passage of this measure will no doubt stop the waste trade in the country and send a clear message to other countries that the Philippines is not a landfill,” the minority leader said.
Under Senate Bill 18, any person who misdeclares, brings into the Philippines any waste, or assists in the importation of waste products shall be punished by very hefty sanctions and penalties.
“Violators may be fined with up to P15 million and/or imprisoned for 8 to 12 years,” Drilon warned.
If the offender is a foreigner, the offender shall be deported after serving the sentence, he added. Joel Zurbano
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, together with the Bureau of Customs, shall be the primary agencies to implement stricter monitoring of imports and enforcement of tighter regulations in order to avoid shipment of waste and even recyclable products into the country.
Meanwhile, environmentalist group Ecowaste Coalition expressed its support to a recommendation made by state auditors for an inventory and inspection of all overstaying containers in all Customs ports nationwide.
The group also threw its weight behind a proposal by Misamis Oriental District II Rep. Juliette Uy to open 880 of the 6,985 overstaying containers that may contain imported garbage and other illegal waste cargoes.
According to the 2018 Consolidated Annual Audit Report on the BOC by the Commission on Audit, “a total of 6,985 overstaying containers carrying various articles remained undisposed in various BOC ports for a period ranging from 30 days to more than 25 years.
The non-disposal of the overstaying shipments violates Republic Act 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, particularly Section 1141 of Chapter 10 on the “Disposition of Property in Customs Custody,” COA said.
In view of this, COA told BOC, among other recommendations, to “conduct inventory and immediate inspection of all overstaying containers to determine existence/condition and status of the goods.”
Eight hundred and eighty of these overstaying containers were without declared information, uninspected and could not be offered for auction as their contents “may pose risk or hazard to the port.”
“These 880 containers could very well contain garbage or hazardous materials illegally imported by their respective consignees. Remember, the garbage shipments in Tagoloan Port were discovered after they overstayed at the port,” stated Uy.
Uy suggested that the overstaying containers be inspected by inter-agency teams, along with non-government experts.
Aileen Lucero, Ecowaste national coordinator, said the public have the right to know what is hidden in the abandoned container vans.