Philippine green groups say goodbye to Canada's trash

Church leaders say no community deserves to be a dumping ground for toxic waste
Philippine green groups say goodbye to Canada's trash

Environmental activists protest outside the gates of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in the Philippines where 69 containers of trash were loaded on a ship back to Canada on May 31. (Photo by Jojo Rinoza)

Environmental groups in Manila have finally heaved a sigh of relief after the Philippine government sent back to Canada tons of garbage that were illegally shipped to the country in 2013.

The 69 containers of trash, which were the target of several protests by activists and even church groups, were finally shipped out of the Philippines on May 31.

"Today marks a high point in our nation’s history ... after nearly six exasperating years of struggles for environmental justice and the rule of law," read a statement from the EcoWaste Coalition.

Aileen Lucero, coordinator of the group, said: "We say with conviction that the Philippines is not the world’s dumpsite."

She said the "ordeal" with the Canadian trash "has taught us the urgency of correcting outmoded regulations allowing waste imports into the country under the guise of recycling."

Church leaders had earlier joined calls for the return of the waste cargo to Canada, saying that no community deserves to be a dumping ground for toxic waste.

From 2013 to 2014, at least 103 shipping containers from Canada were intercepted in the Port of Manila containing mixed waste including non-recyclable plastic, wastepaper, household waste, electronic waste and used adult diapers.

These materials are classified as hazardous, based on the Philippines' Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste and Control Act.

The importation of the shipments was also a violation of the Basel Convention, as the contents of the cargo were misdeclared as recyclable.

Greenpeace, however, said that while the return of Canada’s waste is a positive development, only a little more than half, or 69 containers, of the original waste is being shipped back.

At least 26 containers were already landfilled in the Philippines at the time when Canada disowned responsibility for the shipment; the other eight containers were also disposed of locally.

Aside from the controversial Canadian waste, shipments containing garbage from South Korea were discovered in October 2018.

After campaigns from environmental groups in both the Philippines and South Korea, the respective governments agreed to ship back part of the waste in January.

The remaining 5,177 metric tons of waste are still in the southern Philippine province of Misamis Oriental awaiting repatriation.

In May, shipments of waste from Australia and Hong Kong were also discovered in the southern region of Mindanao.

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Environmental groups have already called on the Philippine government to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits the import of all waste for any reason including recycling.

The groups also called on the government to ban all waste shipments.

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