Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has filed a bill seeking to ban the importation of waste to the Philippines, a timely measure in the wake of recent events that show the country has become a dumping ground for garbage generated by other nations.
In 2013, for example, a private Canadian company shipped 103 containers with about 2,500 tons of waste—mislabeled as recycling plastics—to the Philippines. Customs inspection, however, revealed that two-third of the shipment to be ordinary household garbage, including electronic waste and used diapers.
Efforts to send back the garbage took all of six years and put a strain on diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Canada, whose government seemed in no hurry to take back the waste. In the end, the Philippines prevailed and most of the waste material was shipped back to Canada, but only after the fetid garbage languished in a Philippine port for six years, and 34 containers had been disposed of locally, despite the objections of local environment groups.
Other countries such as Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan have also made the country "a cross-boundary disposal site" of unwanted and toxic garbage.
"These incidents indicate that we have become a dumping ground for waste generated by other nations. We must fix our laws that allowed that to happen," Drilon said. "We must then prohibit the importation of all kinds of waste or scrap including recyclable materials. We should never allow our country to be a dumpsite."
Senate Bill No. 18, or the "Waste Importation Ban Act of 2019," imposes hefty fines of up to P15 million and jail terms of up to 12 years to make shipping garbage to the Philippines a most costly proposition.
The bill also targets recyclable materials, because waste importers used them as an excuse to seek permission to bring their garbage into the country.
Under the proposed law, all waste imports must be returned immediately to its country of origin at the expense of the consignor or importer.
The group Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) observes that countries, especially in Southeast Asia, that do not have policies banning imports of plastic waste are at risk of being toxic dumpsites.
A report released in April 2019 shows plastic waste from highly-industrialized nations are rerouted to developing countries after China imposed a ban on importing and processing plastic waste in 2018.
Greenpeace, meanwhile, reports 178.88 percent jump in trash imports to the Philippines from 2017 to 2018—indicating that the time for legal and institutional action is now. We trust the 18th Congress gives this environmental protection measure the priority it deserves.