Presidential candidates weigh in on Canada waste dumping controversy

By on April 27, 2016

Presidential aspirants (L-R) Senator Grace Poe, former DILG chief Mar Roxas, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago (Facebook photos)
Presidential aspirants (L-R) Senator Grace Poe, former DILG chief Mar Roxas, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago (Facebook photos)

Quezon City – Presidential candidates Grace Poe, Mar Roxas and Miriam Defensor Santiago, if elected, will take specific measures to solve the long-drawn-out Canadian garbage scandal and prevent it from recurring.

In their response to the question put forward by the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog group, the three presidential aspirants specified measures that she or he will do in her/his first 100 days in office to ensure that the illegal waste shipments from Canada are sent back.

“If  elected,  I  will  invoke  the  Basel  Convention  to  force  Canada  to  take  back  the  trash it dumped on Philippine soil,” stated Santiago of the People’s Reform Party.

The Basel Convention, which the Philippines ratified in 1993, seeks to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes, particularly the transboundary movements of such wastes between nations.

Santiago, who filed two resolutions at the Senate pertaining to the Canadian garbage dumping, emphasized “we must not process the waste in the Philippines, as it sets a dangerous precedent.”

“If we allow one country to turn the Philippines into a garbage dump, we are telling all other countries that they can do the same,” she pointed out.

Unlike outgoing President Benigno S. Aquino III, pro-administration “Daang Matuwid” bet Roxas was categorical in asking the Canadian government to ship back their garbage “at the soonest time possible.”

“While these were imported by a private company, they would not have reached the Philippines without clearance from concerned Canadian authorities. The Canadian government must be asked to assume equal responsibility to remove these waste materials from the Philippines at the soonest time possible,” he said.

“We will task the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to send an official letter to Canada demanding them to take back all these containers which were imported in violation of Philippine laws and the Basel Convention,” he added.

For her part, Poe of the “Partido Galing at Puso” said her administration will “facilitate bilateral talks with the Canadian government to repatriate the wastes back to Canada.”

She also said that she will “take immediate steps to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment to ensure clean production and no hazardous wastes are shipped from developed countries to developing countries for any reason.”

The Basel Ban Amendment is a revision to the Basel Convention that seeks to prohibit exports of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries for final disposal, reuse, recycling and recovery.

While Mayor Rodrigo Duterte failed to reply to the question sent by the EcoWaste Coalition, the PDP-Laban candidate had strongly spoken against the illegal entry of Canadian trash.

He had suggested to Aquino to file a diplomatic protest against Canada over the garbage shipments.

Like Duterte, Vice-President Jejomar Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance did not respond to nine-point questionnaire on wastes and toxics that the EcoWaste Coalition sent to the five presidential bets.

Moreover, Santiago stressed that “the task of protecting the country from illicit or unwanted shipments rests on the shoulders of the Bureau of Customs (BOC),” adding that “in a way, the issue of imported trash from Canada is a corruption issue.”

“The BOC is so corrupt that it cannot perform its functions properly. The solution there is to appoint a few good men to run the BOC and for Malacañang to stop meddling with the bureau. Corruption at the BOC will cease only if not tolerated by Palace officials,” she said.