Environmental Coalition Sees Hazards in RP Trade Pact with Japan

25 October 2006, Quezon City. The Ecowaste Coalition today expressed its stern objection over the inclusion of trade in hazardous and toxic wastes in the recently signed economic pact between the Philippines and Japan, the world’s second largest economy and the country’s second major trade partner. Signed on 9 September 2006 by President Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo and then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Finland during the Asia-Europe Meeting, the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) is described by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as the country’s most important bilateral economic agreement in 50 years. JPEPA, lamented the environmental Coalition, allows the trading of hazardous wastes that will only exacerbate the country’s toxic woes. The Philippines produces some 2.5 million tons of hazardous waste each year, and it is not known how much of this is treated ecologically by generators or by the 87 accredited hazardous waste treaters and recyclers in the country. According to the coalition, JPEPA disregards the country’s major environmental laws such as RA. 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000), which prohibits the importation of toxic wastes misrepresented as “recyclable” or “with recyclable content”, and R.A. 6969 (Control of Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Act of 1990), which prohibits the shipment to the Philippines of hazardous and nuclear wastes. The dumping of incinerator ash and related residues also contradicts the spirit and intent of R.A. 8749 (Clean Air Act of 1999), which bans the incineration of municipal, biomedical and hazardous wastes. Some of the JPEPA-tradable wastes are prescribed as hazardous under the implementing rules and regulations of RA 6969, including pathogenic wastes, pharmaceutical wastes, waste oils, pesticides, and chemical compounds containing arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury. Under this law, the entry or even the transit of hazardous wastes and their disposal into Philippine territorial limits is prohibited. The detailed schedule of tradable wastes also includes waste oils containing cancer-causing PCBs and other extremely toxic compounds. PCB, notes the Coalition, a persistent organic pollutant (POP), is being targeted for phase out in the Philippines by 2014. DENR in 2004 issued a Chemical Control Order for the phase out and ban on the importation, sale, transfer and use of PCBs, including PCB wastes. The Coalition also observed that JPEPA contravenes the goals of the “Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal” of which the Philippines is a party. This treaty, which entered into force in 1992, seeks to reduce the international movements of hazardous wastes, and their treatment and disposal as close as possible to where they were generated. Hazardous waste streams that the Basel Convention seeks to control, which are included in JPEPA, are clinical wastes, pharmaceutical wastes, waste organic solvents, residues from industrial waste operations such as incinerator ash and other byproducts, waste substances containing or contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated terphenyls (PCTs) and/or polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), and wastes having as constituents heavy metals, POPs and other toxic chemicals. “We fear that JPEPA would only legitimize the dumping of hazardous and toxic waste materials in the guise of recycling. Not only are these extremely problematic materials listed in JPEPA, they were even given zero tariffs that will undoubtedly encourage dumping,” said Manny Calonzo of the Ecowaste Coalition. “The importation of hazardous waste under JPEPA makes an utter mockery of our environmental laws, and goes against the intent of the Basel Convention’s ban on the export of toxic waste from OECD to non-OECD countries even for recycling purposes. We cannot allow our country to be a dustbin for hazardous waste and toxic technologies,” added Calonzo. Reacting to the probability of the Philippines receiving all sorts of wastes from Japan, Sen. Pia Cayetano, in a statement said,: “I find this situation unacceptable though, because we have not even fully implemented the provisions of RA 9003 despite its passage into law almost six years ago. So how can we take responsibility for the wastes of other countries?” DENR Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio, in a statement published in one newspaper, said: “Even if the JPEPA gives 0% tariffs to these imported wastes, we will not let it in… Our environmental laws are still superior to the JPEPA.” Environmental and other civil society groups fear a possible repeat of the Japanese waste scandal in July 1999 where approximately 2,700 tons of infectious and toxic waste labeled as “waste paper for recycling” arrived in Manila. Custom inspectors were shocked to find in 122 containers tons of used adult and baby diapers, used sanitary napkins, discarded intravenous syringes used in blood letting an dextrose, medical rubber hose and tubes, garments and bandages. Aside from contaminated hospital wastes, they also found plastic sheets, polystyrene packaging materials, PVC pipes and PVC plastic materials mixed with household and industrial wastes. Due to public outcry, the contaminated wastes were shipped back to Japan and Japanese businessmen behind the toxic dumping were charged in Japanese court.
For more information, please contact us at ecowastecoalition@yahoo.com or (02) 9290376.