5 July 2023, Quezon City. As the second State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. nears, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the government to adopt policy measures that will protect the people’s health and the environment from the entry of foreign waste.
The watchdog group for a zero waste and a toxics-free society reiterated its call for the chief executive to ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and for the government to impose a ban on waste imports, including electronic, plastic and other hazardous and toxic wastes.
While the Philippines has ratified the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal in 1993, it has yet to ratify the Ban Amendment, which prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries for reuse, recycling, recovery operations and other reasons. The amendment became an international law upon its entry into force on December 5, 2019.
The EcoWaste Coalition affirmed its call for the ratification of the said international law and the prohibition on waste imports as the fifth anniversary of the July 21 arrival in Northern Mindanao of a shipload of mixed garbage from South Korea wrongly declared as “plastic synthetic flakes” is remembered.
“As we recall this deplorable dumping incident, we remember with pride the patriotic stance taken by our vigilant customs, environmental and local government authorities in Region 10, together with the civil society, not to allow the Korean waste to be landfilled or incinerated in Mindanao,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. “Together, we insisted that the illegal waste shipments should be returned to its origin, consistent with the provisions of the Basel Convention.”
“As an active participant in the ‘return to sender’ actions against the Korean waste and other unlawful waste shipments from Canada and Hong Kong, the EcoWaste Coalition appeals anew to our nation’s leaders to get the Basel Convention Ban Amendment ratified and for other preventive measures to be enacted, including banning waste importation, to put an end to waste dumping and uphold environmental health and justice,” Lucero said. “We request the president to positively respond to our appeal through his SONA.”
“Having led the just re-exportation of the illegal Korean waste shipments to their source, I concur with the demand for stronger laws and policies to fix regulatory loopholes, prevent dumping and defend our people’s right to a clean and healthy environment,” said former Bureau of Customs (BOC)-Region 10 District Collector John Simon, who is now the Acting Director of the BOC Internal Administration Group. “Ratifying the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and disallowing waste imports should be a top priority for our policy makers. We need not wait for another stinking dumping controversy to make headlines and stir us to action. If not now, when?
To recall, the waste shipments declared as “plastic synthetic flakes” were imported by Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corp. and unloaded at the ports in Villanueva and Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental on July 21 and October 21, 2018. The BOC in Region 10 described the incident as “the biggest volume of smuggled waste that was apprehended in this country.”
Found in the bulk and containerized shipments were mixed plastic materials, used dextrose tubes, soiled diapers, discarded electronics and household trash in violation of the Basel Convention and national customs and environmental laws.
Assessed by the authorities as “misdeclared, heterogeneous and injurious to public health,” BOC-10 then issued warrants of seizure and detention and finally a re-exportation order against the illegal waste imports from South Korea.
In August 2019, the EcoWaste Coalition wrote to then President Moon Jae-in requesting his government “to immediately act on this pressing issue and not allow the controversy to drag on like what happened to the infamous garbage from Canada that finally left the Philippines after six long years.”
Following the successful bilateral negotiations led by the BOC-10, the illegal shipments amounting to 364 containers, or 7,408 tons, were sent back to South Korea in seven batches from January 13, 2019 to September 15, 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic challenges.
In January 2023, the trustees and staff of the EcoWaste Coalition wrote to President Marcos Jr. and Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Maria Antonia Loyzaga to appeal for the expeditious ratification of the Basel Convention Ban Amendment.
“To protect human health and the environment, upstream and downstream and prevent environmental injustice, in particular in developing and transition countries, all Basel Parties should ratify (the amendment) at the earliest possible date,” according to a primer published by the Basel Action Network (BAN) and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN).