15 November 2018, Taguig City/Quezon City. The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental health organization for a zero waste and toxics-free society, has appealed to the government of South Korea to act with dispatch to address a brewing foreign garbage dumping crisis in Mindanao.
At a peaceful activity held today outside the Embassy of the Republic of South Korea, the group submitted a letter to Ambassador Han Dong-man urging his government to act decisively to ensure the speedy return of tons of garbage imported from South Korea, which are sitting at the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, and at a warehouse in Cagayan de Oro City.
Dubbed as the “Korea: Basura Out of the Philippines,” or K-BOP action, the event drew attention to the 5,100 metric tons of plastic and other waste materials, including used dextrose tubes, diapers, batteries, bulbs, and electronic equipment, impounded at the MICT that, according to the Bureau of Customs, were mis-declared as “plastic synthetic flakes,” and the hundreds of giant bales of garbage found at a Cagayan de Oro warehouse.
To underline their demand for environmental justice, the group brought with them a big garbage-filled box marked “Back to Seoul, while brandishing a banner that says “please take your garbage back” complete with Korean translation. The protesters blew whistles and chanted “K-POP, OK; basura, no way” to draw attention to this latest dumping scandal.
“As the first ASEAN country to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea in 1949, as an active supporter of the peace and reconciliation efforts in the Korean peninsula, as a major trading partner, and as the nation of some 66,000 Filipinos working or living in South Korea, we strongly believe that the Philippines, a sovereign country, deserves not to be treated as a garbage dump,” wrote Eileen Sison, President, EcoWaste Coalition. “In fact, we believe no country or community should be debased as a dumping ground for garbage.”
“We are concerned that plastics that are difficult or are costly to recycle in your country are being dumped in low- and middle-income countries such as the Philippines in the guise of ‘recycling,’” stated Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
With China shutting its doors to foreign waste imports effective January this year “to protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health,” the EcoWaste Coalition expressed its fear that plastic wastes from developed economies like the Republic of Korea are getting diverted to other low- and middle-income countries that are already burdened by mounting waste problems and other critical socio-economic and developmental challenges.
“The Philippines has a serious plastic waste problem that is already spilling into the world’s oceans, and the export of plastic scraps and mis-declared waste materials from the Republic of Korea is only exacerbating our plastic dilemma,” Lucero emphasized.
The EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that this is not the first incident of garbage from South Korea being dumped in the Philippines.
In February 2017, some 5,000 metric tons of mixed wastes, mis-declared as “solid granular particles of wood chips and synthetic resin,” arrived at the Port of Cebu and were subsequently shipped back to South Korea upon the order of the Philippines Bureau of Customs and the Cebu Port Authority.
To make sure that garbage dumping will never occur again, the EcoWaste Coalition called upon the South Korean government to strengthen regulatory controls that will prevent the export of its garbage to low- and middle-income countries in the name of “recycling.”
“Any trade in plastic waste should be subjected to strict controls based on the numerous negative experiences of Southeast Asian countries, and responsibility for dealing with them must be shouldered by manufacturers, following extended producer responsibility, and close to the source as possible,” the group emphasized.
The group further urged the South Korean government to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries even for recycling purposes.
As head of the South Korean foreign mission in the Philippines, the EcoWaste Coalition requested Ambassador Han Dong-man to raise the matter to the immediate attention of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Environment Minister Cho Myung-rae.