PH gives in to Canada over garbage dispute
MANILA, Philippines – With President Aquino set to make a state visit to Canada next month, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has dropped its demand on the Canadian government to take back the trash that was illegally shipped here two years ago.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the inter-agency government committee, including the DENR, agreed to dispose of the trash in landfills here “for the sake of our diplomatic relations” with Canada.
“It has been resolved. The DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) has strongly recommended it be settled diplomatically,” Paje said in an interview.
“We still hold that the best thing to be done is that they (Canada) take it back, but what will be the effect? It will affect our diplomatic relations,” he went on.
The Bureau of Customs (BoC) said 50 container vans loaded with trash arrived in six batches from June to August 2013 at the Manila port.
The shipment was passed off as scrap materials for recycling, but customs inspectors discovered it consisted of household waste including adult diapers.
The DENR originally asked the Canadian government to take back the trash, as provided under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes.
The Philippines and Canada are among the 180 signatories to the treaty that seeks to prevent developed nations from dumping trash in developing nations.
Paje claimed the trash consisted of “recyclable plastics.” “Therefore if there is nothing hazardous, it can be treated here,” he said.
The waste analysis and characterization study (WACS) conducted by the DENR Environment Management Bureau last January 10 randomly sampled container vans found that the trash was composed of “mixed scrap plastic and household waste.”
There was no mention of adult diapers found.
The trash had been rotting in the past two years, posing a health hazard at the Manila port and Subic port where some of the container vans were transferred to ease congestion.
According to Paje, they are still waiting for clearance from the Manila Regional Trial Court, after government prosecutors last February asked that the trash be disposed of in local landfills while the case continued.
The Bureau of Customs (BoC), through the Department of Justice, has filed a case against the Valenzuela City-based Chronic Plastics, the counterpart of the exporter Chronic Inc. based in Ontario.
Chronic Plastics owner Adelfa Eduardo and the company’s customs brokers Leonora Flores and Sherjun Saldon, were charged with violation of Republic Act 6969 or the Act to Control Toxic Substances and Hazardous Nuclear Wastes, as well as violation of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP) for the illegal importation.
Paje said the BoC would dispose of the trash, and that the cost would be charged to the importer.
“The BOC will treat it. We will only help,” he said.
The Canadian government will not shoulder the cost, nor will the exporter Chronic Inc., according to Paje.
He said they could only go after the importer.
The Canadian Embassy has been on receiving end of mass actions and public petitions to take back the trash since the illegal shipment was discovered.
The embassy has refused to take back the garbage, saying the issue was a “private commercial matter” between a Canadian exporter and its Philippine importer-partner.
“The issue is as friendly countries, would you insist on hurting diplomatic relations if there is another way?,” Paje said.
“They promised they will prevent a repeat. Canada will also look into their policies to avoid a repeat. They will go after their exporter,” he said.
On fears that the government’s handling of the issue could serve as a precedent, Paje believed that the court case brought against the importer would discourage trash shipments.
“Isn’t that a major deterrent? How can we be a dumping ground when we’re vigilant. They were caught. Who else will have the courage to import if they will be caught?,” he said.
President Aquino will undertake a state visit to Canada on May 7 to 9, followed by a one-day working visit to the United States.
Malacañang said he would witness the signing of bilateral agreements on labor cooperation, development assistance and infrastructure development. SFM
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