Canadian trash ends up in President’s backyard
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga—Despite opposition from environmental groups, 29 of 50 containers filled with illegally shipped trash from Canada that had been left rotting at the Port of Manila since June 2013, have dumped the shipment at a sanitary landfill in Capas, Tarlac province, according to an official of the company managing the facility.
Rufo Colayco, president and chief executive officer of the Metro Clark Waste Management Corp. (MCWMC), confirmed to the Inquirer that the company’s facility at Barangay (village) Kalangitan accepted the trash at the request of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), which seized the shipment.
The trash was passed off as scrap materials for recycling, but customs inspectors found household wastes, allegedly including used adult diapers, in the containers.
The BOC, Colayco said, showed a certification from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that the 12-meter freight boxes contained “residual waste, not hazardous waste.”
Citing diplomatic relations, the DENR decided to drop its demand on the Canadian government to take back the trash. That decision happened a month before President Aquino visited Canada on May 6-10.
On the eve of Aquino’s departure, on May 5, Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina issued a memo to retired Maj. Gen. Elmir de la Cruz, BOC district collector at the Manila International Container Port (MICP), saying he had “no objections” to the MICP recommendation to dump the trash in a sanitary landfill at the “earliest time possible.”
The disposal of the shipment was “pursuant to Section 2608 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines,” Lina said.
“The mode of disposal will be by way of disinfection/dumping, which shall be undertaken by a BOC-MICP accredited private disposal contractor and that the actual disposal shall be done in the presence of representatives” of agencies like the departments of environment and natural resources, health, foreign affairs and justice as well as the Canadian Embassy and the Manila Regional Trial Court, Lina said. The court earlier directed the BOC to get rid of the trash.
Environmental advocates said the dumping violated the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste.
DENR Director Lormelyn Claudio said a waste analysis and characterization study done on Nov. 10, 2014, found that the shipment contained “municipal solid waste.”
Colayco said the contents went into a regular pit for common residuals in the 100-hectare landfill in Sub-zone D of the Clark Special Economic Zone.
He said the owner of the containers, identified as Zim and locally represented by Le Soleil, had paid a tipping fee of P900 per ton. A 12-m container carries 25 tons.
“It seems they have done so if only to recover the use of the containers, which have been tied up for about two years,” he said.
Colayco said the fee was higher than the regular P800 tipping fee to cover extra expenses for the “special inspection and handling to ensure that the garbage was truly nontoxic residual waste, as declared to us.”
Colayco said Metro Clark had demanded that the containers be opened and examined at the Subic Bay Freeport, where these were taken to ease the congestion at the Port of Manila last year.
“The DENR recommended to do these in Kalangitan so we reserved the right to record the opening and emptying of each [container],” he said.
The disposal, which began last week, was monitored by the DENR, he said.
Diana Figueroa, president of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens of Bamban, said the disposal was “kept a secret.” But Colayco said he relayed a message to Tarlac Vice Gov. Enrique Cojuangco Jr. to send representatives from communities to observe and verify the disposal.
Figueroa said Cojuangco and the provincial board on Thursday promised to investigate.
She said the dumping violated a provincial resolution that allowed the landfill to take only waste from Tarlac and not from cities and towns outside the province, including Metro Manila.
Colayco said several landfill personnel were alarmed on Tuesday because when a bundle of trash was opened, they found an empty and misshapen plastic container marked “chemical.” However, it turned out to be a softening agent for water in swimming pools.
“We are basically very cautious. We examine every container and do not make any assumption. We maintain our alertness,” Colayco said.
The BOC earlier sued Valenzuela City-based Chronic Plastics, the counterpart of the exporter Chronic Inc. based in Ontario, Canada, for alleged violations of Republic Act No. 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990) and RA 1937 (Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines).
Undersecretary Jonas Leones, chief of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), said a waste analysis and characterization study showed the shipment contained nonhazardous municipal solid waste.
“It is not that dangerous to the community. No treatment was conducted anymore,” Leones said. “The sanitary landfill can accommodate it all, we are also monitoring the progress of the disposal along with the local government unit.”
From now on, he said, the agency will strictly implement a 30-day notice for importers to first secure an importation clearance from the EMB before the arrival of the shipment.
Leones said in the case of the Canada shipment, the importer applied for a clearance only when the shipment arrived.
“This was an eye-opener for us. We are collaborating with the BOC, we will no longer issue importation clearances if the shipment has already arrived. This means the BOC can ship it back or dispose of it. No importation clearance, no loading,” said the EMB chief.–With reports from Jerry E. Esplanada and Julie M. Aurelio
Originally posted as of 8:46 PM | Thursday, July 9, 2015