Eco groups urge government to ban importation of e-waste

Published October 13, 2020, 6:13 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Environmental groups are urging the Philippine government to follow the lead of Thailand in banning the importation of electronic wastes, such as old mobile phones, computers, home appliances, lamps, and other unwanted electrical and electronic equipment.

“The Thai policy banning the entry of e-waste was imposed to protect public health and the environment from toxic pollution resulting from the dirty recycling of these hazardous waste imports. It’s high time for our own government to follow in the footsteps of Thailand and enact a sweeping ban on the importation of e-waste, plastic waste, and other wastes for environmental health and justice,” said EcoWaste Coalition chemical safety campaigner Thony Dizon.

Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Marian Ledesma noted that the country’s neighbors are closing doors to all kinds of waste imports, which places the Philippines “in danger of becoming the most preferred destination in the region for waste.”

“The Philippine government must plug all holes that allow our country to be a dumping ground by ratifying the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and enacting a total ban on waste imports,” Ledesma said.

In observance of the International E-Waste Day on Wednesday, Oct. 14, the groups stressed that the sweeping prohibition on waste imports will serve as a strong deterrent against schemes to transfer hazardous waste and other wastes from other countries to the Philippines where such wastes can be cheaply processed, recycled, or disposed of at the expense of people’s health and the environment.

The groups cited the failed smuggling of e-waste–falsely declared as “assorted electronic accessories”–from Hong Kong that was discovered at a port in Northern Mindanao in May 2019.  

As reported by customs officials, the shipment was intended as a “test cargo,” and that 70 more containers would have followed had it not been intercepted. 

The trash was returned quickly to the sender after its discovery.

EcoWaste and Greenpeace urged the Duterte administration to ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment, an international law prohibiting the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries, and for the imposition of a more encompassing ban on waste importation.

They pointed out that ratifying the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and banning waste importation on the whole would allow the Philippines to focus on its own waste management issues, fully enforce waste and pollution prevention laws, and improve clean recycling facilities with government support and possibly incentives.

Adopting these twin measures, the groups added, will encourage the enactment of other essential policies and regulations to prevent and reduce waste generation, including the ban on single-use plastics, the promotion of reuse and refill systems, the adoption of extended producer responsibility and other strategies toward clean production, zero waste, and a toxics-free society.

The Thai Ministry of Commerce announced last Sept. 15 the start of a ban on the importation of 428 types of electric and electronic components and scraps. Violators will be jailed for up to 10 years, or fined five times the price of the illegal waste import, or both.

In the Philippines, EcoWaste wrote Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu in 2019 to reiterate the need to ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and to propose a comprehensive ban on the importation of wastes, including plastic and electronic wastes, which is still allowed under DENR Administrative Order (AO) 2013-22.

The AO permits the importation of “recyclable materials,” such as scrap metals, scrap plastics, electronic assemblies and scrap, used oil and fly ash subject to certain limiting conditions and compliance to the requirements set by the Environmental Management Bureau.