EcoWaste Coalition welcomes impending return of illegal garbage back to Canada

By Chito Chavez

Hope for the final resolution of the controversial illegal Canadian garbage, which has been in the country since 2013, surfaced after offers were made for its re-shipment to its origin.

A worker from the Metro Clark waste management walks along the rummaged garbage of the Capas Landfill today in CapaS, Tarlac. The landfill now containing 7 years worth of garbage from various cities in Pampanga is also in controversy for the alleged landfill where 26 dump truck containers disposed the waste collection from Canada. Daniel G. Tamala, Chief Security supervisor of the said management confirmed that Capas landfill was indeed the place where the 26 dump trucks dumped their garbage for they all had the necessary documents and clearances required to perform the disposal. (Camille Ante)
A worker from the Metro Clark waste management walks along the rummaged garbage of the Capas Landfill in Capas, Tarlac. (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

With this development, environmental group EcoWaste Coalition welcomed Canada’s offer to get their garbage in the Philippines re-exported to their country.

To recall the Canadian press reported the government of Canada has sent “a formal offer” to the Philippines to have the illegal garbage shipments that arrived in the Port of Manila from 2013 to 2014 returned to the Port of Vancouver.

As of now the Philippine government has yet to respond to the offer.

“While we are not aware yet of the terms and conditions, we welcome the offer made by the Canadian government as a very positive development that will hopefully result to the re-export of their garbage on or before the May 15 deadline,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“As this is a matter of public interest, we request the authorities to fully disclose the offer made by Canada so the people can see and assess for themselves if the terms and conditions, if any, are in line with our national laws and Canada’s obligations under the Basel Convention. There ought to be a complete inventory and accounting of Canada’s wastes in the country,” she added.

Environmentalist Rene Pineda added that “prudence and the law dictate that the Canadian government should cover the cost of the repatriation of its waste, including the reimbursement of the expenses of the Philippine government for holding it for many years’’.

Lucero also pointed out that “our nation’s persistence to get the garbage returned to the ‘state of export’ has raised national as well as global awareness about the responsibility of waste exporting countries to respect the rights of people in developing countries and for them to live up to their obligations as parties to the Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes.”

The Triple Conference of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions is currently in progress in Geneva, Switzerland from April 29 to May 10.

On Friday, NGOs made interventions at the plenary stressing that “the Convention should be respected by all Parties and violations should be acknowledged and rapidly resolved,” and that the Convention’s “the non-compliance mechanism exists not to punish but to address and prevent future debacles such as the Canadian garbage dumping.”

Earlier, Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez gave the Bureau of Customs (BOC) until May 15 to return the garbage to Canada following President Rodrigo Duterte’s stern warning last April 23 against the long delayed repatriation of the illegal trash shipments.

On April 29, environmental and community activists staged a protest action outside the Canadian Embassy demanding the immediate re-shipment of the wastes.

Prior to these local developments, the Canada-based Pacific Center for Environmental Law and Litigation issued a legal opinion on April 10 strongly arguing that Canada has violated the Basel Convention in respect of the illegal traffic waste from Canada to the Philippines.

From 2013 to 2014, a total of 103 shipping containers of mixed household garbage from Canada disguised as scrap plastics for recycling reached the Philippine shores.

Twenty six of these 103 containers were illegally disposed of at a landfill in Tarlac in 2015 until exposed and halted by furious citizens and officials.

A waste characterization study conducted by the government in 2014 confirmed that 64 percent of the garbage shipments were residuals, which can no longer be recycled and should be properly disposed of.

Environmental health and justice activists alongside government officials, lawmakers, labor and church leaders have long insisted on the re-export of the Canadian garbage stressing that the Philippines is not a global dumpsite for the trash of the world.