Quezon City—The blurred lines between “legal” and illegal waste trade have turned the country into the world’s waste bin, this is the conclusion of a new policy report on waste trade launched today at the Philippine House of Representatives. The report, co-published by Greenpeace Philippines and EcoWaste Coalition, details policy gaps that potentially make illegal waste trade into the country seem legitimate. The groups are calling on the Philippine government to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment[1] and for Congress to pass into law a total ban on waste imports.

“Waste trade has been a perennial challenge in the Philippines,” said Party-List TGP Representative Jose Teves, Jr., “To fully solve this problem, we need to look at not just how current policies may be improved, but we need to take advantage of international policy instruments, such as the Basel Ban Amendment, as well as enact into law a strong waste trade ban.”

The report, titled Waste trade and the Philippines: How local and global policy instruments can stop the tide of foreign waste dumping in the country, is a policy paper that looks at current waste and importation laws to identify gaps and loopholes that allow waste trade to happen. Current thinking on illegal waste trade into the Philippines focuses on lax enforcement of environment and customs laws that make illegal waste trade lucrative, and many reported cases of illegal waste trade are cases of misdeclared cargo. The report shows that, given gaps in policies, actual number of cases of illegal waste trade are likely underreported.

Potential policy loopholes include: allowing “recycling” of imported waste, the current definition of waste in Philippine laws, and provisions that only deal with specific types of hazardous waste and not other types of waste which may also be potentially harmful. Waste trade primarily for “recycling,” and under certain conditions, is legal in the Philippines. However, there is no sufficient and effective monitoring whether the waste would be properly handled once they entered Philippine shores. For example, there have been many documented cases of imported electronic waste, used lead-acid batteries, and plastic scrap (all legal under the law), ending up in backyard recycling facilities, being processed crudely by workers with no personal protective equipment and with no environmental protection measures in illegal facilities, or in registered facilities that lack adequate environmental safeguards or permits.

“Our laws are not strong enough to protect the country from developed countries and regions like Canada, Hong Kong and South Korea’s potential to abuse the existing loopholes. It is high time for the government to greenlight the ratification so we can have a stronger defense against the potential human security impact of waste importation,” Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition said.

“At its core, waste trade is an issue of justice,” said Greenpeace Philippines country director Lea Guerrero. “Trade of waste typically follows the route of least resistance and cheapest cost, and where either occurs, there is almost always an externalized cost in human and environmental impacts. If the Philippines remains wide open to both illegal and “legitimatized” waste trade at a time when many other countries are closing their doors to waste imports, we will become the preferred destination for foreign waste. We need to address these policy gaps immediately.”

“The immediate ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment, and the bold step of banning waste imports in the country sends a strong message to the international community that the Philippines will not be a dumping ground of any waste.” Atty. Gregorio Rafael Bueta, author of the report said. “There are sufficient international and national legal justifications to ratify the Ban Amendment – and this will be an opportunity for the country to align itself with growing international calls to halt waste trade, especially to developing countries.” 

Notes to editors:

[1] The Basel Ban Amendment prohibits the export of hazardous wastes and “recycling” materials from rich countries belonging to Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), European Union (EU) and Liechtenstein to developing countries. The Philippines has yet to ratify the said amendment to the Basel Convention Ratification is also called for by the international and national legal bases discussed in this report. Taking this bold step will align Philippine policies with global efforts to curb waste and waste trade.

For more information, please contact:

Angeli Cantillana, Communications Campaigner, Greenpeace Philippines
+63 998 595 9733
[email protected]

Misdeclared Mixed Waste Shipped Back to South Korea from the Philippines. © Geric Cruz / Greenpeace
Ban foreign waste

Let’s tell the world that we are not a garbage dump!