You are here
Banning Waste Imports Urged to Protect PH from Becoming a Garbage Bin for Other Countries
Quezon City, Philippines. Civil society groups marked the first anniversary of the repatriation of 69 container vans of rotting Canadian garbage to their source with a resounding plea for decisive policy actions to prevent its recurrence and to defend environmental justice and the rule of law.
In a joint statement released ahead of the May 31 anniversary, the EcoWaste Coalition, RightOn Canada and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) called on both Canada and the Philippines to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, an international law forbidding the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries for reuse, recycling, recovery or disposal.
“While bulk of the garbage had been returned to Canada a year ago, the threat to public health and the environment from imported waste persists. Despite earlier pronouncements, the government has yet to formally invalidate old regulations allowing the entry of electronic, plastic and other hazardous wastes into our ports under the veil of recycling,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“To put an end to this iniquitous practice, we renew our appeal to the authorities to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, disallow the importation of waste, and step up efforts to ensure the environmentally sound management of waste materials generated by our own industries, institutions and households,” she added.
"Ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment is a fundamental next step for both the Philippines and Canada to prohibit hazardous waste trade,” said Dr. Joe DiGangi, Senior Science and Technical Advisor, IPEN, a global environmental network that counts EcoWaste Coalition and RightOnCanada among its partners. "However, if the Philippines really wants to avoid becoming a waste bin for other countries, it needs a comprehensive ban on all waste imports,” he pointed out.
Kathleen Ruff, Founder and Director of RightOnCanada, who was instrumental in obtaining a legal opinion confirming that the export of Canadian garbage to the Philippines constituted illegal traffic under the Basel Convention, said that "UN Conventions, such as the Basel Convention are very important. But it required the support of Filipinos and the determined activism of the civil society to make the Canadian government finally, after six years, fulfill its obligations under the Basel Convention and take back its wastes.”
Under the Basel Convention, Canada is legally obliged to ensure that wastes illegally exported to a developing country like the Philippines are returned to Canada by the exporting company or by the government within 30 days of having been notified by the receiving country.
“Citizens and environmental organizations need to stay involved and active if we are to achieve environmental justice,” Ruff said, stressing “it is time for Canada and all countries to support the Basel Ban Amendment and finally stop the destructive and unjust practice of wealthy countries exporting their wastes to developing countries.”
To recall, 103 shipping containers loaded with over 2,400 tons of waste from Canada -- falsely declared as scrap plastics for recycling -- arrived in the Philippines between 2013 - 2014. Inspection conducted by customs and environmental authorities revealed mixed plastics, electronic waste, household trash, and used adult diapers among the intercepted cargoes. A subsequent waste analysis and characterization study (WACS) by the government found 64 per cent of the analyzed materials as residuals, or garbage that cannot be reused, recycled or composted.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted the dumping issue in two subsequent trips to the Philippines in 2015 and 2017, but refused to commit to re-importing the illegal waste shipments. His predecessor Stephen Harper failed to settle the issue before finishing his term.
In 2019, the Canada-based Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation at the request of RightOnCanada issued a legal opinion that found Canada’s refusal to take back its garbage constituted illegal traffic, among other violations of the Basel Convention.
On April 23 last year, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened war against Canada over the unresolved garbage scandal, recalling its ambassador and other embassy officials after Canada missed the May 15 deadline.
On May 31, the 69 containers of Canadian garbage eventually left the Port of Subic north of Manila on board M/V Bavaria. The trash shipments reached the Port of Vancouver on June 29 and transported for disposal at the Burnaby waste-to-energy incinerator.
Before this, wastes from 26 containers were unlawfully disposed of in 2015 at a private landfill facility in Tarlac province without the approval of the local government, infuriating local officials and residents.
The other eight containers could not be located despite the EcoWaste Coalition filing a Freedom of Information (FoI) request in 2019 to know where the missing garbage went.
EcoWaste Coalition is a non-profit network of over 140 groups promoting a zero waste and toxics-free society where communities enjoy a safe and healthy environment (http://www.ecowastecoalition.org/, http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com/).
International Pollutants Elimination Network is the global environmental network of nearly 600 public interest NGOs in over 125 countries working to eliminate and reduce the most hazardous substances to forge a toxics-free future for all (http://www.ipen.org/).
RightOnCanada is a project of the Rideau Institute, an independent research and advocacy group based in Ottawa, providing research, analysis and commentary on public policy issues to decision makers, opinion leaders and the public (https://rightoncanada.ca/).