19 January 2020, Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental/Davao City/Quezon City. Environmental health and justice advocates called for greater vigilance against waste imports as they cheer over the re-exportation of the remaining illegal South Korean waste shipments to their origin starting today.
At the jubilant “return to sender” ceremony held at the Mindanao International Container Terminal, over 35 representatives from the EcoWaste Coalition, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) and the Sustainable Davao Movement (SDM) joined Bureau of Customs-Region 10 Port Collector John Simon and other public officials in celebrating the re-export of the first 60 container vans of contaminated plastic waste from South Korea in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental where more than 5,000 tons of such wastes have been sitting since 2018.
To emphasize their call for vigilance, the advocates unfurled a banner that says: “Prohibit waste importation. Ratify the Basel Ban Amendment.” They also held placards with anti-dumping messages “Pilipinas hindi tambakan ng basura” (Philippines not a dumpsite), “Mindanao dili basurahan” (Mindanao not a garbage bin), “no entry for foreign waste,” and “no dumping from now on.”
“The re-exportation of the falsely declared waste materials back to South Korea affirms our nation’s readiness and resolve to bring this dumping controversy to its just conclusion. To stop this incident from happening again, I add my voice to the growing clamor to upgrade and strengthen our legal defense against waste dumping, including ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment,” said Simon.
The Philippines, a state party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, has yet to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment. The said amendment, which became an international law last December 5, 2019, prohibits the export of hazardous wastes for all reasons, including recycling, from developed to developing countries
Speaking before the triumphant crowd, Chinkie Peliño-Golle, Executive Director of Davao City-based IDIS said: “This dumping controversy and similar dumping incidents have reinforced the urgency of ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment and revising current regulations that permit waste imports into the country under the guise of ‘recycling.’ We need to plug the regulatory loopholes that waste traders are taking advantage of, which is turning our country, particularly Mindanao, into a convenient dumping site for plastic, electronic and other hazardous wastes.”
“Such wastes should be recycled, treated or disposed of in the country where such wastes were generated,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition, who also added that “while we pursue ecological solutions to our domestic garbage woes, we must tell South Korea and other countries to deal with their own wastes at home and stop exporting them to the Philippines and other Asian countries.”
Dr. Joe DiGangi, Senior Science and Technical Advisory of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), which includes IDIS and the EcoWaste Coalition among its members, agreed: “Korean waste should be managed in Korea and not dumped in the Philippines or anywhere else. This experience should nudge both countries to promptly ratify the Basel Ban Amendment.”
The groups further stressed the need for a national ban on waste importation from all countries that will cover all wastes, including household and plastic wastes, as the Basel Ban Amendment is focused mainly on hazardous waste shipments from developed countries.
According to the groups, the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment and the prohibition on waste importation will be the best legal protection of the Philippines against illegal waste traffic.
“For the protection of public health, for environmental justice, and for the preservation of the national dignity against the dehumanizing and polluting impacts of global waste trade, we call upon our leaders to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment and to impose a waste import ban without delay,” the groups asserted.
Aside from the EcoWaste Coalition, IDIS and SDM, representatives from Agro-Eco Philippines, Bantay Bukid/Bantayo Aweg, and Gitib-Orol (Our Rivers Our Life) also witnessed the send-off ceremony for the illegal waste shipments from South Korea.