Environmental health and justice groups lauded the final re-shipment of the remaining 43 containers of illegal trash imports from South Korea last month.
Citing the confirmation from the Bureau of Customs in Northern Mindanao (BOC-10), the EcoWaste Coalition said wastes were shipped back to Pyeongtaek City from the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT Port) in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental on board container ship BH MAHIA last Sept. 15.
The repatriation of the remaining wastes raised to 364 the total number of garbage-filled containers returned to South Korea in seven batches starting in January 2019 amounting to 7,408.46 metric tons.
“We congratulate the Filipino people and government, particularly BOC-10, for successfully insisting on the responsibility of the exporter or the State of export, in accordance with the Basel Convention, to take back hazardous wastes or other wastes deemed to be illegal traffic,” EcoWaste national coordinator Aileen Lucero said.
“The completion of the re-exportation procedures shows that action against waste trafficking knows no pandemic,” she added.
“As we say goodbye and good riddance to these smuggled wastes, we say ‘bravo’ to the resolute fight waged by our customs and other government officials, together with the civil society, to overcome all the hurdles so as to secure our people’s dignity and well-being,” she said.
EcoWaste also thanked the government of President Moon Jae-in for honoring its promise to have the illegally exported wastes repatriated as it urged South Korea to take decisive action to prevent the transfer of its waste to the Philippines, including ratifying the Basel Convention Ban Amendment, which forbids the export of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries.
Davao City-based Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) also welcomed the departure of the stranded South Korean waste in Mindanao stressing that such a success has underlined the important role of local government units (LGUs) in preventing the dumping of waste from overseas.
“The persistence of the Tagoloan municipal government and the Misamis Oriental provincial government contributed a great deal to the concerted action by the public and private sectors to send back the illegal waste imports and to disallow their disposal locally. It underscores the important role of LGUs in thwarting waste dumping schemes,” said IDIS executive director Chinkie Peliño-Golle.
Senior science and technical adviser of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) Joe DiGangi noted that “the return of illegally exported South Korean waste demonstrates that regulatory enforcement can and must continue during the pandemic. Now the challenge for both the Philippines and South Korea is to ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment so that this sad history is not repeated.”
EcoWaste and IDIS are participating organizations of IPEN, a global movement for a toxics-free future.
“Countries should protect themselves from the possibility of adding to their COVID-19 healthcare and plastic waste crisis by doing two things. In the short term, countries should move quickly to ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment. In the mid-term, countries should enact a ban on the importation of all wastes,” DiGangi pointed out.
Among the waste materials found in the containerized and bulk shipments from Southe Korea were unsorted plastic materials, used dextrose tubes, soiled diapers, discarded electronics and household garbage in violation of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and national laws.