Environment groups hail ‘victory’

“IT is a victory for the environment, morality and a victory for the rule of law!”

Thus declared environment-advocate groups led by RightOnCanada, EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN after 69 shipping containers of illegally dumped Canadian trash are finally now homeward bound.

Kathleen Ruff of RightOnCanada said that the Canadian government is now finally going to comply with the Basel Convention and take responsibility for its own wastes.

“This is what environmental responsibility means,” Ruff stressed.

EcoWaste Coalition National Coordinator Aileen Lucero stressed that the Philippines is not the world’s dumpsite.

“Never again shall we allow other countries to trash our dignity, our people’s health and the environment,” Lucero added.

From 2013 to 2014, 103 containers containing more than 2,400 tons of trash from Canada arrived in the Philippines, wrongly declared as scrap plastics for recycling but actually found to contain unsorted plastics, household garbage, used adult diapers and electronic waste.

Under Basel Convention rules, Canada should have repatriated its waste within 30 days, but instead pressured the Philippine government to process the illegal shipment locally.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau noted the dumping issue in two subsequent trips to the Philippines in 2015 and 2017 but refused to commit to taking back the trash.

A 2019 legal opinion from Canada-based Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation found that Canada’s refusal to repatriate its trash constituted illegal traffic, among other Basel Convention violations.

Last April 23 President Rodrigo Duterte, demanded that Canada take back its illegally dumped trash. The Philippines recalled its Ambassador and consuls after Canada missed the May 15th deadline.

Joe DiGangi of IPEN, meanwhile, said that Canada should have complied with the Basel Convention and repatriated its illegal garbage exports years ago.

“It should not take a presidential threat to get Canada or any other country to comply with the Basel Convention. Going forward, both Canada and the Philippines need to learn from this frustrating experience, so that it is never repeated,” DiGangi explained.

To prevent the recurrence of garbage dumping, the groups agreed that Canada and the Philippines should rapidly ratify the Basel Ban Amendment which prohibits the export of hazardous wastes and other wastes from developed to developing countries for any reason, including recycling.

They added that new global rules enacted at a recent Basel Convention meeting will stop unrestricted plastic waste exports. However, strengthening Philippine law is also an important step to prevent future dumping say the groups.

“This ordeal has taught us of the urgency of correcting outmoded regulations allowing waste imports into the country under the guise of recycling. We need to close this ghastly loophole that is facilitating illegal waste traffic and turning our country into a dumping ground for plastic, electronic and hazardous wastes, which should be recycled, treated or disposed of in the country where such wastes were generated,” said Lucero.