Atienza warns of more trash shipments to PH

Trash shipments

A FORMER secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-turned opposition House leader yesterday Friday warned of a likely increase in containerized foreign garbage shipments headed to the Philippines in the months ahead.

“We’ve been targeted as a dumping ground owing to our inadequate controls at various ports of entry,” said House senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, who was  DENR secretary during the Arroyo administration.

“North America and Europe are looking for new destinations for their unwanted materials after China banned the importation of used plastics and other recyclables,” said Atienza.

Chinese recyclers used to import and process much of the Western world’s reusable waste, according to Atienza.

But Atienza said China’s “National Sword” policy, adopted in January 2018, put Chinese recyclers out of business.  

“Just like prohibited drugs, contaminated trash in shipping containers are sneaking into our ports mainly due to corruption and ineffective checks,” said Atienza, a former three-term mayor of Manila, said.

Canada recently pulled out 69 shipping containers of garbage, mostly plastics and household kitchen waste, unlawfully deposited in the Philippines.

This was after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to ship back and dump the trash in Canadian territorial waters, and after Manila began downgrading diplomatic ties with Ottawa.

The Philippines also recently shipped back 2.6 tons of shredded electronic and plastic waste from Hong Kong that arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

Atienza urged the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to enforce the compulsory pre-shipment inspection (PSI) of containerized imports in order to thwart all contraband trying to enter the country, including illegal trash and narcotics.

PSI is the practice used by governments, mostly in developing countries, of requiring importers to engage accredited third-party surveyors to verify shipment details, such as the price, quantity and quality of goods, before cargoes depart the exporting country.

The practice compensates for inadequacies in the importing country’s customs and other administrative controls, and discourages the undervaluation of taxable shipments from abroad.

“We are counting on PSI to effectively prevent not only illegal waste and drug shipments, but also the widespread smuggling of high-value farm products, cars, electronics, apparel and what have you, stashed in containers,” Atienza said.

The PSI of containerized shipments would also put an end to chronic corruption at the BoC that costs the National Treasury tens of billions of pesos in lost import taxes every year, according to Atienza.

“Only those engaged in smuggling as well as rotten officials are opposed to PSI, because they stand to lose a lot of money from their rackets at the BOC,” Atienza said.

At present, the BoC only requires the PSI of all bulk and break-bulk cargo, or commodities – mostly in liquid, granular or particulate form – shipped in large quantities, such as crude oil, petroleum, grain, coal and the like.

Atienza estimates that the BoC could easily increase its annual tax collection by 50 percent once PSI is in place for containerized imports.