By Chito Chavez
Workers belonging to various groups attending the Labor Day rally on Wednesday expressed their frustration over the Canadian government’s refusal to take back their illegal garbage languishing in the country since 2013.
During the rally, the protesters demanded Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to once and for all resolve the garbage controversy which has also angered and infuriated President Duterte.
The President even went to the extent of threatening to dump the ton of garbage in the beautiful beaches of Canada.
On Monday irate citizens led by the environmental group EcoWaste Coalition and leaders of three major labor organizations including a senatorial candidate for the May 13 polls demonstrated outside the Canadian Embassy to seek the speedy removal of the illegal traffic waste out of the Philippines.
“Canada should take back their garbage and stop exporting pollution. To prevent waste dumping from recurring, we call on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to revoke current policy that promotes trade of hazardous wastes and other wastes. This policy is partly to be blamed for the entry of hazardous wastes disguised as recyclable materials into our ports,” said Leody de Guzman, Chairman, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP).
De Guzman is one of the senatorial bets of the workers-based “Labor Win” alliance for the midterm polls.
Josua Mata, Secretary-General, Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) assailed what he termed as “waste colonialism” that is treating developing countries as dumping ground for wastes and toxics from industrialized economies.
“It is immoral and unjust for rich countries to dump their rubbish in developing countries like the Philippines, which is facing a lot of challenges managing its own trash. To stop this form of waste colonialism, Canada has to solve its garbage feud with the Philippines and stop shipping its discards, including domestic refuse, soiled diapers and e-waste, to far-away places under the cover of so-called recycling,” he said.
For his part, Allan Tanjusay, Spokesperson, Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), stated: “We seek Canada’s compliance to its responsibility as ‘State of export’ to reclaim the wastes illegally sent to the Philippines. Canada’s immediate action will show its sincerity toward the effective implementation of the Basel Convention of which it is a party.”
According to the Basel Convention, the “State of export” of illegal traffic waste “shall ensure that the wastes in question are taken back by the exporter or the generator or, if necessary, by itself into the State of export… within 30 days from the time the State of export has been informed about the illegal traffic or such other period of time as States concerned may agree”.
“To this end, the Parties concerned shall not oppose, hinder or prevent the return of those wastes to the State of export,” the Convention said.
DENR Administrative Order 2013-22, which provides for the revised procedures for the management of hazardous wastes, allows the importation of solid plastic waste materials and electronic assemblies and scraps into the country.
On March 8, 2019, the EcoWaste Coalition wrote a letter to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu proposing “that the Philippines should join China and other countries in banning the importation of foreign waste, particularly plastic and electronic wastes, in the interest of protecting the people’s health and the environment.”
Environmental health groups have also repeatedly asked the government to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which seeks to prohibit highly industrialized countries from exporting hazardous wastes to developing countries “for final disposal, reuse, recycling, and recovery.”
“President Duterte’s ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment amid the successive waste dumping incidents involving countries like Canada and South Korea will demonstrate our government’s resolve to protect our country against the adverse impacts of hazardous waste trade to the environment and our people’s lives,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.