Civil society organizations from Malaysia and the Philippines are urging the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to declare the entire region as a “no dumping ground” for hazardous wastes and plastic garbage.
The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and the EcoWaste Coalition jointly called for a robust ASEAN-level policy that will protect the region’s 655-million human population and its “rich but threatened biodiversity and ecosystems” from the adverse impacts of global waste dumping.
The groups’ plea for a regional stance to prevent foreign waste dumping came on the heels of the Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards (AEEA), where recipients from Malaysia and the Philippines were recognized for their work in combating transboundary environmental crime. This resulted in the re-exportation of unlawful plastic waste imports to their countries of origin.
“The AEEA conferred to environmental enforcers in Malaysia and the Philippines has again turned the spotlight on the illegal traffic of waste in Asia and the need for greater collaboration and vigilance, nationally and regionally, to put an end to such an environmental crime,” said Mageswari Sangaralingam, a researcher from CAP.
“Now is the time for the ASEAN to flex its muscles as a regional bloc to denounce global waste dumping and affirm its unity to safeguard the region’s people and the environment from the drawbacks and hazards of waste trade,” Chinkie Peliño-Golle, regional coordinator of International Pollutants Elimination Network – Southeast and East Asia (IPEN-SEA), said.
The EcoWaste Coalition, on the other hand, underscored the need for all ASEAN member-states to immediately ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and fix regulatory loopholes, if any, that “legalize” the entry of hazardous wastes and other wastes disguised as recyclable scraps.
“Regionally, we urge the ASEAN to adopt a declaration, or better still an agreement, proclaiming the region as no dumping ground for foreign waste,” said Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition.
Brunei, as chair of the ASEAN for 2021, should use its positive influence to promote the expeditious ratification of the Basel Convention Ban Amendment by countries in the region, the groups said.
Only Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia from Southeast Asia have ratified the said amendment banning all exports of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries. The amendment finally came into force on Dec. 5, 2019.