By Mario Casayuran
Outgoing Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, commended the Duterte administration’s strong resolve to send back the shipment by a Canadian company of more than 100 containers of household trash, including soiled bags and diapers, that was sent to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014.
Legarda leaves her chairmanship of the Senate foreign relations committee on July 1 after her stint in the 24-member Senate and joins the House of Representatives as congresswoman following the May 13 mid-term elections.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said that the Philippine ambassador and consuls in Canada were recalled, following Canada’s failure to ship back the containers before the May 15 deadline, and that the Philippines would have diminished diplomatic presence until Canada removes its garbage in the country.
“It is unacceptable that six years since these containers were shipped to our shores and that despite assurances from the Canadian government to HELP remove them, their waste is still here, posing significant health and environment risks in our country,” Legarda said.
Legarda authored the country’s landmark laws on environment, such as the Ecological Solid Waste Management (ESWM) Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act.
“Many ecotourism areas in our country are undergoing major rehabilitation from environmental degradation, and this strong resolve against Canada’s waste dump is another push towards ensuring the protection of our environment, natural resources, and health,” Legarda said.
She stated that each government is accountable for enforcing its own solid waste management policies, adding that Philippine communities that are faithfully implementing the ESWM have reported up to 80 percent waste diversion rate, which means that instead of being brought to landfills, this much of waste is either recycled or composted.
Legarda also chairs the Senate Committee on Climate Change and Vice-Chair of the Committee on Environment.
She said that the Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-Boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which promotes environmentally sound management of exported and imported waste, especially in developing countries, and which both the Philippines and Canada have ratified, should be respected and enforced.
“This is a reminder to other countries that the Philippines is not their dumping site. Solid waste management should be enforced within each country and within their communities. With our strong political will and even stronger cooperation among groups and advocates, we will remain vigilant in safeguarding any threats against our environment and health,” Legarda concluded.
During a public hearing in 2015 by the Senate Committee on Environment on the garbage issue, Legarda recalled saying: “Taking back their waste is the only option. Canada is a signatory to the Basel Convention. As part of their commitment to the Convention, they should take back their waste.’’