Environmental and public health groups expressed frustration and disappointment over the sudden disposal of 29 of the 50 container vans containing mixed wastes that were illegally imported from Canada, despite the absence of a court order directing the illegal shipment’s disposal.
A news report confirmed that the waste shipment has been accepted by Metro Clark Waste Management Corporation, a sanitary landfill in Capas, Tarlac, at P900 per ton. Based on its website, however, Metro Clark does not appear to be allowed to process some of the wastes found in the illegal Canadian waste shipment, such as electronic wastes, which is one of the waste materials discovered inside the cargo vans.
“We can not correct a mistake with another mistake. Disposing of the illegal shipment without the proper directives from the regional trial court and without any technical assessment of the wastes contents makes a mockery of our laws and puts public health at risk yet again,” said Anna Kapunan, BAN Toxics’ Chemicals Management Coordinator. “We hope that this is not another case of political expediency supplanting public interest and safety.”
Environmental watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition condemned the dumping of the Canadian trash in Tarlac as “inexcusably anti-Filipino.”
“The local disposal of the Canadian trash amid the opposition in the streets and even the halls of Congress and Senate came like a thief in the night. It’s inexcusably anti-Filipino that must not happen again. President Aquino needs to assure our people through his upcoming State of the Nation Address that robust measures will be put in place to plug the loopholes that led to such a horrendous act of disrespect to our environmental integrity,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition.
For more than a year, civil society groups have been clamoring for the return of the 50 container vans to Canada, but last May, another batch of waste-filled containers coming from the same exporter has been discovered in Subic Port. It was found out that 48-forty five footer container vans containing the same kind of wastes arrived at the Philippine ports at around the same time as the first 50 container vans in question.
The first shipment has been a subject of 14 legal cases filed by the Department of Justice against the importer Chronics Plastics, Inc. and its owner Adelfa Eduardo. To date, no court order has yet been released approving the disposal of its contents.
“Our fears have been confirmed. For the Aquino government to allow this to happen right under our noses – without proper court order and community consultation- is unthinkable. It is legally, socially, and morally unacceptable to dispose of foreign waste, disguised and declared as non-hazardous, in our very own backyard. This move is a bad precedent and sends a signal to other unscrupulous and illegal waste traders to ship their unwanted trash to the Philippines. It is inconceivable how our own government has carelessly acted without regard to our sovereignty,” said Abigail Aguilar, Toxics Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines.
Meanwhile, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) admonished the government for making a clandestine move to dispose the Canadian waste amidst the heavy downpour and widespread floods currently being experienced in Luzon.
“The surreptitious transport of these container vans amid this bad weather reeks of bad faith. Indeed, while our collective attention are directed towards disaster risk reduction and management, quietly the BoC slips 29 container vans out of Manila to Clark for disposal knowing fully well that a number of legal actions related to those illegal shipment are pending in Manila RTCs,” said Paeng Lopez , Program Coordinator of GAIA.
Last November 2014, a waste assessment and character study (WACS) was conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and witnessed the members of the interagency committee composed of BoC, Department of Health, Department of Foreign Affairs, and a representative of the Canadian Embassy.
The WACS revealed that the contents of the sampled containers are heterogenous, or mixed wastes, comprising of household wastes, unrecyclable plastics, broken bottles and electronic wastes. Earlier statements from the DENR said the shipment contains hazardous wastes and must be sent back to Canada in accordance with the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes.
But on March 2015, a sudden turnaround was made by the DENR when they announced that the wastes were not toxic, and can be disposed here in the Philippines. This came weeks before President Benigno Aquino III’s state visit to Canada to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the leaders of the Canadian government.
“The WACS was simply a cursory visual assessment of the waste. It is not a definitive assessment of the toxicity of the content nor the dangers of the constituents of the waste,” explains Kapunan. “If there were infectious wastes, radioactive wastes or even heavy metals in the containers, visual inspection may not reveal this. It is disconcerting that the disposal is underway without taking sensible and precautionary steps to ensure the wastes are not toxic and can be properly managed.”
GAIA’s Lopez couldn’t hide his disgust, citing that the victims of the whole issue of the Canadian waste are the common people living in Capas, Tarlac.
“Whose interest is the Aquino government really protecting? We feel sorry for the frontline communities in Clark who has to host this dirty reminder that our national government has no intention of protecting our welfare. It is detestable that in own country, our own government upholds the interest of Canada instead of ours,” Lopez said.