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Editorial

Send it back to Seoul

/ 05:24 AM November 15, 2018

The Philippines and South Korea — ah, there’s a love affair.

Filipinos have had nothing but affection for everything hallyu (Korean Wave) — from K-pop to Korean food, fashion, beauty products, movies and TV shows, holiday destinations, and not least the many Korean citizens who have come to the Philippines and have warmly embraced the country as their second home.

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Over a million Korean visitors have arrived so far this year, accounting for some 22 percent of the total tourist arrivals as of August, making South Korea the Philippines’ top tourism market.

Filipinos have reciprocated by becoming one of the fastest-growing tourist markets as well for South Korea, with a good portion of them visiting the sites popularized by Korean telenovelas and movies.

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When it comes to the two countries, it’s really just one big “finger heart” — the hand gesture ubiquitous among K-pop stars to show their love for their fans.

So what utter distress to hear news of something that the Philippines can’t welcome in any form from South Korea: 5,100 metric tons of trash — including used diapers and dextrose tubes, batteries, bulbs and electronic equipment — that were sent to the Philippines four months ago, and have been sitting since then in an ecozone in Misamis Oriental.

Documents from the Bureau of Customs office in Cagayan de Oro City show that the baled garbage arrived from South Korea at the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) on July 21, 2018, on board MV Affluent Ocean.

The 51-container shipment — consigned to South Korean firm Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corp., which runs a waste recycling facility on a 4.5-hectare lot in an industrial zone in Tagoloan — was wrongfully declared as containing “plastic synthetic flakes” when it was, in fact, packed with trash.

According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the South Korean firm was not registered as an importer of recyclable materials; thus, it faces charges over the misdeclared items.

“This shipment from Korea can be considered the biggest shipment of waste that has entered the country,” declared an MICT report. It’s “outrageous and unacceptable,” said EcoWaste national coordinator Aileen Lucero. “Why do we keep on accepting garbage from other countries when we know that our country’s plastic waste, which is literally everywhere, is spilling to the oceans and endangering marine life?”

It’s ironic, Lucero added, that while South Korea is taking action to control its own plastic waste, such as banning plastic bags in supermarkets starting October this year, its unwanted plastics are being sent abroad.

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“It’s high time for the Philippines to disallow garbage imports and to demand that developed countries, as well as manufacturers of plastics and other disposable goods, take full responsibility for their products throughout their whole life cycle,” she said.

The case is rankly reminiscent of the 55 containers of garbage that entered the country in 2013 from Canada, the shipment also misrepresented as recyclable plastic scraps.

That waste is still in the country, and serves as “a stinking reminder” of the unjust global waste trade, said EcoWaste.

Iligan City Rep. Frederick Siao has demanded that Verde Soko and the shipper based in South Korea pay for all expenses involved in returning the garbage to South Korea.

He also wants relevant government agencies to shut down and seize all of the assets of Verde Soko and to slap criminal charges on all those involved in the shipment.

But, other than these private companies, the South Korean government should also intervene, “because they’re also one of the parties of the Basel Convention in 1989, wherein it is stated that any illegally trafficked waste should be returned to its point of origin,” said Environment Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management Benny Antiporda in a TV interview.

Indeed, the Philippines is not a trash bin, whether of Canada, South Korea or any other country. Filipinos must tell their South Korean friends: This country welcomes EXO, BTS, Gong Yoo, Nam Joo-hyuk, Park Min-young, Etude House, face masks, “Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo,” samgyeopsal, Melona, etc. But not garbage, please.

If the erring South Korean company and Blue House itself, the Malacañang of South Korea, refuse to retrieve the trash, then how about a deal?

The Philippines can take in this one shipment, but South Korea will have to take all the venal Filipino politicians in return. Fair enough trade.

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TAGS: Aileen Lucero, Benny Antiporda, DENR, Department of Foreign Affairs, DFA, EcoWaste Coalition, Frederick Siao, Inquirer editorial, South Korea-Philipines relations, South Korean garbage shipment, Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corp.
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