13 July 2019, Quezon City. An environmental health and justice group opposed to foreign waste importation has welcomed the move by the Department of Finance (DOF) to create a special strike team within the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to prevent illegal waste importation.
The formation of such team, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, will complement ongoing efforts to revise existing regulations so as to prohibit the entry of hazardous wastes and other wastes in line with the presidential order banning foreign waste imports.
“Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez’s order to BOC to create such a team will be useful in averting the entry of waste shipments into our country’s ports,” stated Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“All BOC ports nationwide should have a dedicated group comprised of honest and principled women and men who will proactively act to frustrate the unloading and dumping of wastes from overseas into our shores,” she said.
“The efforts of Mindanao Container Terminal sub-port under the leadership of Port Collector John Simon in seizing misdeclared waste shipments from Hong Kong and South Korea, as well as from Australia, should inspire other ports to be more vigilant against such imports,” she added.
Dominguez issued the directive during a recent DOF Executive Committee meeting after BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero reported that he had called on his counterparts in ASEAN member states to strengthen their law enforcement capabilities to prevent the region from becoming a dumping ground for hazardous materials, including garbage, from other countries.
“It’s time we put up something like an environmental unit in the Customs to really act on this garbage issue,” Dominguez said.
Considering the continuing threat of illegal traffic waste, the EcoWaste Coalition pressed the DOF and the BOC to set up the special strike team soon.
“As time is of the essence, we hope the BOC strike team versus foreign waste imports will be set up soon. Its formation will be in sync with the presidential order banning waste imports,” Lucero said.
Last May 6, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte “ordered that the Philippines will no longer accept any waste from any country” as confirmed by his spokesperson Atty. Salvador Panelo.
To further shield the Philippines from the adverse impacts of the global waste trade, the EcoWaste Coalition called on the government to hasten the country’s ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment.
The Basel Ban Amendment, which only needs ratification from two more eligible countries such as the Philippines to enter into force, seeks to prohibit the export of hazardous wastes and other wastes from developed to developing countries for any reason, including recycling.
“We expect the DOF and the BOC to strongly support the DENR in seeking President Duterte’s ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment,” Lucero said.
After ratifying the treaty, the Office of the President has to transmit its decision to the Senate for concurrence.