MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should lodge a diplomatic protest against Canada for its illegal garbage stranded in the Philippines, say customs and environment officials.
A letter from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) asks the DFA to file a diplomatic protest against Canada to “prevent a repeat of the unfortunate incident and enjoin the government of Canada to revisit their domestic regulations on the export or illegal traffic of wastes.”
The letter was addressed to DFA Assistant Secretary and Spokesman Charles Jose. It was signed by Customs Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement Ariel Nepomuceno and DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones.
The two officials also requested DFA to formally request from the Canadian government “documents and other evidence to support our legal action” against Chronic Plastics, the Philippine-based importer of the first 50 container vans.
The letter, however, does not request the DFA to call on Canada to ship back the waste, a call fiercely championed by environmentalists and concerned citizens.
It’s been two years since 50 container vans of garbage from Canada were intercepted by the BOC in the Manila port.
Another 48 were discovered last May. The first batch had been misdeclared as “recyclable plastic scraps” when they were found by BOC to contain household waste, mixed plastics, and even used adult diapers.
A waste analysis study by the DENR has been cited by the Canadian embassy to defend its decision to have the garbage “processed” on Philippine soil.
The DENR study concludes that the garbage is neither hazardous nor toxic, and thus safe to dump in Philippine landfills.
It was also the BOC that facilitated the transfer of 26 of the container vans to a private landfill in Capas, Tarlac. The dumping was stopped by the Tarlac provincial government, which sought a more comprehensive study of the garbage and its impacts on health and the environment.
The 103 container vans were shipped by Canadian exporters Chronic Incorporated and Live Green Enterprises.
The Philippine government has filed smuggling charges against the Philippine-based importer. The Canadian government, meanwhile, said they had no domestic or international authority to compel the two exporters to return their illegal shipments to Canada.
This despite Canada being a signatory to the Basel Convention, an international treaty in which countries commit to prevent the illegal transfer of waste from a developed country to a developing country.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who chairs the Senate’s foreign relations committee, has said that under the Convention, Canada can be held responsible for the illegal garbage.
Two advocacy groups have asked the Basel Convention Secretariat, to probe the issue.
Both houses of Congress are set to conduct an investigation into the matter. – with a report from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com