By Roy Mabasa
Australia’s garbage will be the next to be shipped out of the Philippines.
This was announced by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Monday, saying that the Australian trash which was imported to the country by a Philippine-based cement maker, is “going back” to where it came from.
“O, by the way, the garbage from Australia, that’s going back too. No, I don’t give a flying f••k that it is used in making cement. If that is so cement makers should formally import the ingredient so it goes nowhere but to their plants,” Locsin said in a tweet more than a week after the Philippines has forced the Canadian government to retrieve back the tons of waste it illegally shipped to the country almost six years ago.
Unlike in the Canadian garbage issue, Locsin, however, did not issue a timetable for the Australian trash’ return.
Commenting on Locsin’s tweet, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon said a recent congressional hearing showed the shipment was imported by cement maker Holcim Philippines.
Biazon, who served as Customs commissioner during the Aquino administration, noted that the BOC contested the declaration that indicated the shipment as “Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF).”
“Sec (Locsin), per information during a recent hearing in Congress, it was imported formally by Holcim. BOC contested the declaration w/c was Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF), saying it was domestic waste based on the smell. DENR said they can test to confirm,” the Muntinlupa solon said.
Custom0s officials claimed there was an alleged discrepancy in the shipment’s declaration. They explained that in one document, it was entered as PEF but in the tariff, it appeared as “municipal waste.”
In essence, the BOC maintained that the shipment allegedly violated Republic Act (RA) No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, RA 6969 or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990, and Section 1400 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, which covers “misdeclaration or misclassification” of shipment.
The shipment from Australia consisting of seven 40-footer container vans was first discovered on May 14 at the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) in Tagaloan, Misamis Oriental.
Officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) earlier posed “no objection” to the importation and used of PEF as an alternative fuel in cement production.
The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), an agency under the DENR, said PEF “is comprised mainly of industrial and commercial recyclable materials such as plastics, cardboard, paper, textile, waste timber, and other inert materials.”
Resourceco, an expert in material recovery, described the PEF as a “viable alternative to fossil fuels for use in cement kilns”. “Using PEF improves environmental outcomes by reducing greenhouse gas production per tonne of cement produced,” the Australia-based company said on its website.
On May 31, the Philippines finally obliged Canada to ship the 69 container vans filled with trash back to its port after almost six years when it was illegally transported to the country.
At the height of the Canadian garbage issue, Malacanang said it was “offended” by reports countries like Australia and Canada were shipping their trash to the Philippines.
“That will be our stance. It will be offensive to this government to be a recipient of trash or basura (garbage). We are offended by that,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.