In mid-2013 on a normal day in the port of Manila, a controversial hauling of over 55 containers of 40-footer large waste was received from an international plastic company in Canada and was seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC). Environmental activists, the general public, and even political adversaries were furious. They are deeply concerned on the fact that the only reason why this shipment pushed through was due to the misdeclaration of the contents.
It was said to contain ‘heterogeneous plastic scrap materials’ but when 18 of these containers were inspected by the Department of Health’s (DOH) Bureau of Quarantine and the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR) they were shocked to find used adult diapers, kitchen waste, household waste, broken bottles and even non-recyclable plastics, seriously, what were the odds of this? They were then alarmed as to the dangerous effects of this waste.
There were different opinions on the matter and it definitely became a controversy. Not only did the Philippines need money to disinfect the nasty odor and leakage that was just plainly hazardous using sodium hypochlorite or bleach solution, they also wanted to send these containers back to where they come from.
The plastic company that is located in Ontario, Canada was owned by Jim Makris. The shipment was for Ms. Adelfa Eduardo who owns Chronic Plastics; a Philippine-based company. This shipment could have pushed through if not for the BOC. Their initial reaction that made them open these containers was because of the stench.
At first, it was kept in the areas of the BOC but since the leaking started and how it posed a threat to the vicinity they decided, on July 14, 2015, to transfer all 1,375 tons of Canadian waste to the northern Landfill of the Philippines.
For over two years now, the controversial Canadian garbage has been within the custody of the BOC and how immediate action was already mandatory. Activists protest against this and relay their anger and frustration through social media platforms, rallies and doing official meetings with the government.
According to Philippine Law
Aside from the environmental issues, economical issues rise. According to Republic Act 6969 known as the “Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990” of the Philippine Constitution, the imported Canadian garbage is a direct violation and is hereby punishable by law. It is also an illegal trade pursuant to the BASEL Convention “On The Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste And Their Disposal” meaning the exchange and movement of waste between countries is prohibited. Its primary objective is “to protect human health and environment against adverse effects of hazardous wastes”.
The Philippines had to spend thousands just to make sure these containers will not cause any harm to the Filipino community.
Numerous letters were written to Canada and how the Philippines is demanding the re-exportation of the “contraband” as described by the BOC. Finally, they come to an agreement and decides to dispose of the shipment in an environmentally sound manner in accordance with its laws and regulations.
Everyone was baffled with the news, most were really angry because the garbage was supposed to go back to Canada and not to the Philippines landfills. People wonder why they think it’s alright to make the Philippines their dumping site. It has become a great insult to the Filipino people and those who value the kind of integrity we so desperately hold on to.
This fiasco made environmental groups like Public Services Labor Confederation, Green Convergence, Mother Earth Foundation, Ateneo School of Government and the Ecowaste Coalition petition the Embassy of Canada to fasten the process of returning unwanted waste, reimbursing the Philippines for spending for something they did not have to and to reinstitute the damages they have made.
Another 48 containers of the same contraband were found in the port of Manila in March 2015 and was said to be there since February 2014. Last month, the Philippines‘ government filed a 3rd diplomatic protest, asking Canada to take back the 2500 tonnes of illegal garbage still rotting in Manila. An online petition has been launched and signed by over 40,000 people on Change.org demanding immediate action from Canada’s newly elected prime minister Justin Trudeau.
This event becomes a reflection of how sometimes as much as third world countries would like to level with first world countries, it just doesn’t seem possible. It is unfair and insulting for the Philippines to be used as a ‘dumping site’ of imported waste. It’s pathetic and utterly degrading. I have high hopes that this issue will not happen again and that respect becomes a two-way street.