DENR eyes total ban on waste imports

Anna Gabriela A. Mogato
The government has had enough of misdeclared shipment carrying garbage entering the country's ports

SAFETY MEASURE. After shipments carrying garbage from 4 countries arrived in the Philippines, the DENR is considering to ban the importation of waste altogether. Photo from EcoWaste Coalition

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is currently crafting a policy which would ban all waste imports amid the rise in arrivals through the country’s ports of misdeclared shipments carrying garbage. 

Environment Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones on Friday, May 24, said that, together with the Environment Management Bureau, they will come out with a department order within the year.

Yan ang tanging paraan dyan kasi nagkakaroon ng window eh. Sasabihin lang nila, scrap plastic, because these are the things allowed for importation. Pero pagdating pala dyan, may misdeclaration,” he added. 

(That is the only way out of this problem because it gives a window for people to import trash. They will say that it’s scrap plastic, because these things are allowed for importation but once it arrives, it’s actually misdeclared.)

While a department order does not totally assure a stop to the future arrival of shipments containing hazardous waste, the policy will however, at least flag as illegal the  importation of all forms of waste, Leones said. 

Leones clarified though that the DENR could not easily ban all waste imports, given that this could affect industries that derive their businesses from garbage. 

“We have already directed the EMB to make an inventory on the industries relying on these recyclable materials. We also have to provide them an alternative livelihood once we implement the policy,” he added. 

The first hot-button case of tons of trash entering the country happened in 2013 when 50 container vans from Canada arrived at the Manila International Container Port. Reports said total of 103 containers entered the port, but only 69 will finally be shipped back to Canada by June.

In July 2018, shipment supposedly carrying synthetic flakes from South Korea arrived at a Mindanao Container Port in Misamis Oriental. These containers are expected to be shipped back this year

Last February, a container from Hong Kong claiming to be carrying assorted electronic parts arrived at the Mindanao Container Port in Cagayan de Oro.

However, port authorities found electronic waste and residue inside the shipment instead.  

The Republic Act No. 6969, or an act to control toxic substances and hazardous and nuclear wastes, allows the importation of recyclable waste, such as scrap plastic and scrap metal

The Philippines is also a member of the Basel Convention, which means that any country, especially development nations, bringing in toxic trash must get the receiving country’s permission first. (READ: FALSE: Panelo’s claim that PH is not a signatory to Basel Convention)

Echoed the call

Environment groups also called for the total ban of waste imports such as EcoWaste Coalition. The coalition’s national coordinator, Aileen Lucero, called the entry of residual waste in the Philippines through misdeclaration as “devious.”

Lucero, in a statement also released on Friday, was referring to Australia shipping municipal waste labelled as “processed engineered fuel” arriving at Cagayan de Oro earlier this month. The law does not allow importation of municipal waste. 

Australia is able to get rid of its residual wastes in a profitable way by converting and relabeling them as processed engineered fuel for export to developing countries like ours. We question this latest scheme of foreign waste disposal,” Lucero said. 

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives plastics campaigner Beau Baconguis in the same statement said that the disposal of waste from wealthy nations should not be at the expense of developing countries. 

“Governments in Asia, which has become the world’s new dumpsite, must strictly guard their territories against waste smuggling from richer countries,” Baconguis added.  – Rappler.com