Puzzled at why foreign trash ended up on Philippine soil, the Senate will formally conduct an investigation into the controversial dumping of close to a hundred container vans containing household trash to the Philippines in 2013. Of this number, at least 26 container vans filled with Canadian trash had been dumped in a Tarlac landfill incurring the ire of residents.
Yesterday, Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. filed Senate Resolution 1449 “to institute more stringent measures to protect public health and the environment from toxic and hazardous materials as well as ensure environmentally sound waste management.”
“We have to ask (in the Senate probe) whether it is already the policy of the government to import garbage. If it’s not a policy, how did the trash from Canada find its way to the Philippines?” Marcos said. Marcos was in Tarlac Provincial Capitol earlier and spoke with local officials led by Gov. Victor Yap and Vice Gov. Enrique “Kit” Cojuangco who reported that at least 26 container vans of the Canadian garbage had already been unloaded in a private landfill in Sitio Kalangitan, Capas, Tarlac operated by the private firm Metro Clark Waste Management Corp.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources committee riled at the idea of the Philippines being made the world’s dumping site.
Marcos said waste disposal in the Philippines is strictly regulated by Republic Act 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act) and Republic Act 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act).
On Monday, the Basel Action Network (BAN) and environmental justice organization BAN Toxics (BT) submitted a complaint to the secretariat of the Basel Convention – an international treaty designed to reduce the movements of hazardous wastes between nations – “to start the proceedings on Canada’s negligence to its treaty obligation.”
“We want the Basel Convention secretariat to call the attention of Canada about its failure to honor their treaty obligation and assist both countries to become compliant with the Convention. It is necessary for the Secretariat to step in to prevent collusion between Canada and the Philippines in skirting their obligations to the treaty,” said Angelica Carballo-Pago, BT communications and media manager.
“While the secretariat cannot compel Canada to take back the waste, it can issue a cautionary state- m e n t and provide advice regarding future complia n c e to help countries implement the Convention,” she added.
“It’s lamentable that President Aquino did not mention the Canadian waste at all in his SONA (State of the Nation Address). We know that the Philippine government have been pressured by Canada not to put up a fuss, so we are not counting on our government to file a non-compliance brief,” said lawyer Richard Gutierrez, BT’s executive director.
BAN and BT asserted that “as household wastes are a Basel Convention Annex II waste, Canada is bound to strictly control their export.”
“Canada however has maintained that its domestic laws do not control household waste, which indicates Canada’s failure to properly transpose their international treaty obligations into domestic law,” it added.
“Canada has admitted to us that it has failed to properly implement the Basel Convention. This means that they are not in compliance and that has resulted in significant economic and environmental harm to the Philippines,” said BAN executive director Jim Puckett.
“We have asked them on several occasions to take responsibility required of them under the law and they have simply refused,” he added.
As a party to the Basel Convention, illegal traffic such as this must be prosecuted by Canada as a criminal act and the illegally exported waste should be returned to its territory unless it is impracticable to do so, the groups pointed out. (MARIO B CASAYURAN, ELLALYN B. DE VERA, and CHITO A. CHAVEZ)