Lawmakers to probe Canada garbage dumping in Tarlac

Pia Ranada
Lawmakers to probe Canada garbage dumping in Tarlac
(UPDATED) At least 26 container vans of trash are already in a Tarlac landfill. Local government officials stop further dumping pending a probe into the issue.

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Lawmakers have filed a resolutions at both houses of Congress to investigate the dumping of illegally-shipped garbage from Canada in Philippine landfills.

Senate Resolution No 1449 has been filed by Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, according to a July 28 press release. Senator JV Ejercito filed a similar resolution last July 21.

House Resolution No 2220 was filed last July 20, by congressmen Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of the Bayan Muna Partylist.

The resolutions comes amid reports that several container vans of the garbage are being transferred to landfills in different parts of Luzon. (READ: Canada wants its illegal garbage ‘processed’ in PH)

“It is crucial to scrutinize the policy of the government in allowing the foreign-sourced trash into local landfills in order to assess and enhance viable mechanisms to protect our people from the health perils brought about by the gargantuan rubbish literally thrown into our backyard at the expense of our people,” Marcos said in the resolution.

“This is the height of insult and callousness when our own  government allows another country to use our lands as its own garbage dump. This is tantamount to an affront to our national sovereignty. How pliable is President Aquino to the Canadian government for agreeing to such a trashy deal?” said Colmenares in a press release.

At least 26 container vans of the garbage have been dumped in a private landfill in Capas town, Tarlac, Aquino’s own home province. The landfill is owned by Metro Clark Waste Management Corp.

Tarlac Governor Victor Yap has stopped the dumping of more container vans pending a probe by provincial officials into the garbage.

The Tarlac Provincial Board met last July 16 to investigate the issue.

Incomplete study

Yap, as well as environmental groups like BAN Toxics and EcoWaste Coalition, are not satisfied with results from a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) study.

The DENR and the Canadian embassy have been using the study as basis for saying the illegal garbage is not toxic, and thus safe for dumping in Philippine soils.

Aileen Lucero of EcoWaste Coalition, in her presentation to Tarlac officials probing the issue, said the study was very limited.

She said it only assessed 3 out of around 50 container vans. The study also only evaluated the physical composition of the trash but not their chemical properties and possible hazards to human health and the environment.

“Considering that no biological or chemical assessment was done on the samples, it will be reckless to say that the controversial Canadian garbage shipments ‘are neither toxic nor hazardous,'” said Lucero.

Yap asked for more time for the Tarlac government to conduct a more thorough assessment of the garbage and the issue as a whole, according to a CNN Philippines report.

International law on PH side

The Canadian garbage is said to be composed of mixed plastic scraps, kitchen waste, used diapers, soiled papers, and electronic waste.

Zarate commended the Tarlac government for its stance against the dumping.

“We urge the local government of Tarlac to continue asserting its authority and prohibit the continued dumping of these garbage,” he said. 

Environmentalists and lawmakers have repeatedly insisted that the wealthier Western country transport the illegal garbage back to Canadian soil. (READ: Miriam to PH: Use int’l deal vs Canada garbage)

Canada is bound to do so under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes which it has ratified.

Under the Convention, the country from which the waste originated is responsible for returning the waste to its port of origin “within 30 days from the time the State of export has been informed about the illegal traffic.”

The Convention also states that the obligation for such waste to be managed in an environmentally sound manner “may not under any circumstances be transferred to the States of import or transit.”

Two-year saga

Hopes were high that President Benigno Aquino III would raise the issue to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his state visit to Canada last May.

But Aquino did not mention it, saying the issue was being handled by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Canadian garbage saga has been festering for two years since 50 container vans from Canada were found by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in 2013 to contain smuggled garbage. The garbage was “misdeclared” as plastic scraps.

The BOC has filed a case against the Philippines-based importer. But so far, no action has been dealt against the Canadian exporter.

Last May, another 48 container vans from Canada were discovered in Manila port, bringing the total number of container vans of Canadian garbage to 98. – Rappler.com

 

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.