Groups demand immediate return of Canadian toxic waste

Call for Philippine Government to ban toxic wastes trade

Press release - October 21, 2014
As the illegal Canadian toxic waste shipments fester in Philippine ports for 16 months, public furor over the Canadian government’s brazen defiance of international law erupted anew in Manila as environment and public health groups staged a street protest in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) commemorating the signing of the flawed international treaty on toxic waste trade called the Basel Convention.

Twenty-one years after the Philippine government ratified the Basel Convention it continues to labor under the threat of toxic waste trade. With the latest illegal Canadian toxic wastes, the public is demanding the DFA and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to initiate the ratification process of the Basel Ban Amendment to prevent the Philippines from becoming a global toxic waste dump site.

Although the Philippines is a party to the Basel Convention, environmental groups said that the Basel Convention has loopholes, which toxic waste traders capitalize on. For one, it only requires prior consent from the receiving country to initiate toxic waste export, but more importantly, destination countries such as the Philippines are left to their own devices to police and intercept illegal waste shipments.

 

“As far back as 1995, developing countries tried to erect barriers to protect themselves from toxic waste dumping by amending the Basel Convention with what is now called the Basel Ban. The logic behind this amendment was simple; let those who generate toxic wastes deal with their wastes. And what better way to do this than banning these noxious exports,” explained BAN Toxics executive director Atty. Richard Gutierrez.

The Basel Ban Amendment, an amendment to the Basel Convention, prohibits the movement of hazardous wastes from developed to poorer countries for any reason, whether it be for disposal or recycling.

“This disgraceful hazardous waste trade in the Philippines needs to stop. We demand that the Philippines Senate ratify the Basel Ban Amendment immediately and promote clean production, stop toxic technologies and prevent governments and companies from circumventing the recycling loophole in the Basel Convention,” said Abigail Aguilar, toxics campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines.

Meanwhile, EcoWaste Coalition calls for President Benigno Aquino III’s intervention to ensure the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment.

“The infuriating presence of the stinking Canadian garbage in our soil despite being declared illegal by our customs and environmental officials is a shameful slap on the face of every Filipino. If the DFA or the DENR cannot end this travesty of justice, we ask President Aquino himself to intercede, defend our national dignity and our right to a healthy and safe environment. The presidential intervention and the Senate ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment should send a clear-cut signal to all waste generators and traders that our country is not a landfill to the world," said Aileen Lucero, coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized 50 container vans containing waste materials imported from Canada, with the consignee Chronic Plastics, Inc. declaring the shipment as ‘assorted scrap plastic materials for recycling’. However, upon inspection of the BOC, it was revealed that the shipment contains mixed hazardous wastes, including hospital waste, used adult diapers, and sanitary napkins, which continue to rot and leachate, posing great risk to public health.

“We need a collective effort to solve this problem. We are asking for DFA to make a firm stand on the issue. Would you just allow the Canadian garbage to stay in our country? Or will you do what former Secretary Domingo Siazon did with the issue of the Japanese garbage? Aside from respecting and adhering to the provisions of Basel Convention we have pressing issues on the impacts on health and the environment,” said Ang NARS Representative Leah Paquiz.

While the botched importation of the Canadian toxic wastes shipment is a clear violation of the Basel Convention, the groups scored the Philippine government for giving in to suggestions from the Canadian government to permanently dispose of the toxic wastes shipment in the country.

“Filipinos have labored under a series of administrations that value toxic wastes more than the public’s right to a healthful ecology. The fact that the government has twiddled its thumbs for over 20 years on the issue of toxic waste dumping, shows that there are a few who benefit from this criminal trade, and that administrations past and present have been unwilling or have decided to look the other way,” Gutierrez said.

“The illegal Canadian toxic waste export is a testament to this awful truth.” Gutierrez added.

In an effort to gain public attention on the issue, the coalition filed an online petition on change.org[i] that drew 23,600 signers, more than half of which are Canadians. The group is encouraging more people to sign the online petition to appeal and urge the Canadian embassy in the Philippines to facilitate the pick up and return of the garbage back to the Canadian soil.

Joining Ang Nars, BAN Toxics, Greenpeace, and Ecowaste Coalition are Mother Earth Foundation, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Convergence, and the Ateneo School of Government.

For more information and interviews, contact:

Abigail Aguilar
Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace Philippines
Mobile: 0917.810.6693
Email:

Diah Abida
Media Assistant, Greenpeace Philippines
Mobile: 0917.868.6451
Email:

Angelica Carballo-Pago
BAN Toxics!
Mobile: 0998.959.5785
Email:
[i] http://www.change.org/p/the-canadian-embassy-in-manila-re-export-the-50-forty-footer-container-vans-filled-with-mixed-waste-and-trash-from-the-philippines-to-canada-leonaaglukkaq-canembph-ambcanph-honjohnbaird