MANILA — Various groups assured mounting this November, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) in Metro Manila, action on Canada’s continuing failure to take back its 50 container vans of waste shipped to the Philippines in 2013.
“If those container vans are still in the country by then, you can count on civil society to take action on the matter,” lawyer and BAN Toxics Executive Director Richard Gutierrez said Thursday (March 26) during a forum in Metro Manila, expecting Canada to attend that APEC meeting.
Such action will demonstrate public opposition to the disputed shipment’s continuing presence on Philippine soil, he said.
Government already identified Chronic Inc., with business address at 113 Brock St., Whitby, Ontario LIN 5G9 Canada, as having exported the waste.
BAN Toxics and other groups noted such shipment isn’t mere recyclables as claimed but mixed waste consisting of plastic bags, bottles, newspaper, household garbage and used adult diapers.
The shipment is consigned to Chronic Plastics located at 6 T. Santiago St., Canumay, Valenzuela City, government said.
According to Gutierrez, Canada can’t say the problem is a private matter between the two parties.
“Illegal shipment of waste is imbued with public interest,” he said, noting garbage impacts on health and the environment.
Gutierrez noted BAN Toxics and other local groups are already trying to coordinate with counterparts in Canada to help further bolster demand for removal of the waste.
He cited need for heightened public action on the matter, noting the shipment is illegal for being toxic and hazardous to health and the environment particularly as liquid discharges from the cargo have been observed already.
“Nobody’s saying that shipment is legal — the environment and foreign affairs departments as well as others acknowledge it’s illegal,” he said.
Such illegal shipment therefore violates the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, he continued.
The Convention prohibits illegal waste trade which occurred when the 50 container vans of waste were exported to the Philippines, he said.
Canada and the Philippines are signatories to the Basel Convention, he noted.
He said the Basel Convention says if there’s illegal shipment of toxic or hazardous waste, the exporting country must take that back within 90 days from receipt of notification.
“Under the Basel Convention, it’s a crime to export illegal waste,” he said further.
Ang NARS partylist representative Leah Paquiz reiterated urgency for removing the disputed waste, saying this already cost the government some PHP76 million in storage and demurrage expenses covering the cargo’s nearly 700-day stay in the country.
“That waste shouldn’t be here as we’re not a garbage dumping site and don’t want to be one,” she said at the forum.
Ecowaste Coalition’s Rene Pineda agrees and warned aboutrepercussions of allowing the waste to remain in the country.
“Such situation shouldn’t continue and be repeated or it’ll be precedence for the Philippines to be a garbage dumping ground,” he said at the forum.
Running priest Fr. Robert Reyes joined the call for removal of the disputed waste as soon as possible.
He noted the removal will signal Canada’s respect for the country.
“Consider Filipinos not as your little brown brothers – we may be small and brown-skinned but of equal dignity as Canadians,” he said at the forum.
Earlier, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) reported already informing its Canadian counterpart of need to take back the controversial shipment.
EMB issued a notice of violation after inspecting in August 2013 facilities of Chronic Plastics.
Such inspection revealed imported scrap metals mixed with other waste and manually sorted by workers, noted EMB.
According to EMB Director Jonas Leones, government already formed an inter-agency group tasked with dealing with the hazardous cargo from Canada.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is heading such group which has the environment department and Bureau of Customs as among its members, he noted.
“That cargo is an international issue — the ball is in DFA’s hands already so this agency is discussing the matter with the Canadian government,” he said.