Canada’s trash still here after 2 years
Despite cries of “Return to sender,” “Nimby” (not in my backyard), “Take back your garbage” and protest actions by environmental groups against the 50 containers of trash that arrived here from Canada in June to August 2013, the foul, toxic and disease-causing cargo is still here.
Are Philippine authorities so uncaring that something as undesirable as foreign garbage would be allowed to sit on our soil for that long? And why would a supposedly friendly and wealthy nation such as Canada play deaf? Do Canadians think we can be so easily ignored and brushed away? Well, yes, if you recall the massive devastation that a Canadian mining company wrought upon the island of Marinduque about two decades ago, the adverse effects of which the island’s residents suffer to this day.
President Aquino’s state visit to Canada this week is a good time to raise the stink once again. Opening a foul topic to one’s host may be an undiplomatic act of a guest head of state, so people’s voices should win the day. Like a foul-smelling rot that continues to seep through the cracks until it is taken away, this garbage issue will fester if it is not addressed. So this state visit is a great opportunity to release the foul smell once again for concerned parties to inhale.
Zero-waste groups led by the EcoWaste Coalition have described the garbage dumping as “environmental injustice” and an “illegal transboundary movement of hazardous waste.” On the eve of President Aquino’s departure for Canada, labor groups demanded that he press Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to order the return of the vans of garbage that are in Manila and Subic ports.
News reports in 2013 said that when the containers arrived in six batches at the Manila International Container Port, they were seized by customs police who discovered that the cargo did not contain homogeneous or recyclable plastic scrap materials as had been declared by the importer. Police found used “heterogeneous” (mixed and unsorted) plastic materials, including household garbage and even used adult diapers.
In February 2014, Greenpeace urged the Philippine Senate to immediately ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment that would ban all shipments of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries, even if these are for recycling purposes, and promote clean production, stop toxic technologies and prevent governments and companies from circumventing the recycling loophole in the Basel Convention.
At that time Canadian and Philippine zero-waste advocates condemned the dumping of hazardous waste disguised as recyclable plastic. They described the botched attempt as a violation of environmental laws including Republic Act No. 9003 (or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act), which prohibits the importation of toxic waste disguised as “recyclable” or “with recyclable content.” Zero Waste Canada called it a disgrace, embarrassing “bad behavior… towards the environment and the good people of the Philippines.”
Last year the Bureau of Customs filed smuggling charges at the Department of Justice against the importer of the 50 containers. Charges were filed against Adelfa Eduardo, owner and proprietress of Chronic Plastics, a firm based in Canumay, Valenzuela City, and the company’s licensed customs brokers Leonora Flores and Sherjun Saldon for violating Sections 3601 and 3602 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines; RA 6969 (or the Toxic Substance and Hazardous Wastes and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990); and Article 172 in relation to Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.
The online petition submitted to the Canadian Embassy last year received an answer from Ambassador Neil Reeder: “We are responsible stewards of the environment in Canada and we expect our companies and the importing companies to be socially responsible. We will try to resolve this as best as we can because we have a very strong relationship [with the Philippines and] we don’t want that to be affected by issues like this.” As of two days ago more than 25,000 individuals have signed the petition.
But what do you know, the BOC proposed to just dispose of the shipment right here in the Philippines in order to decongest the ports. The EcoWaste coalition called it “an indecent proposal” that is “like an open invitation to make the Philippines a dumping ground for the unwanted waste of other countries.”
On Sept. 15, 2014, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago filed Senate Resolution No. 919 for the chamber to “direct the proper committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on ways to decisively prevent illegal waste dumping from abroad, including the ratification of the ‘Basel Convention Ban Amendment’ and other legal measures to protect the country from becoming a global dump for hazardous wastes.”
Ang NARS Party-List Rep. Leah Paquiz also filed House Resolution No. 1525 directing the House committee on ecology to investigate, in aid of legislation, the unlawful importation of 50 container vans filled with mixed wastes from Canada.
Sixty-three public interest groups “for a toxics-free future” from 30 countries demanded that only clean materials be shipped abroad for recycling and that recycling not be made a camouflage for waste-dumping.
And yet Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said an interagency committee, including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, has agreed to dispose of the trash in landfills here “for the sake of our diplomatic relations” with Canada. What a shame.
Why don’t we just ship back the trash? Costly, yes, but that would be our way of saying, nimby!
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