Foreign garbage and corruption in ports

IT APPEARS that our country is being targeted as dumping ground of other nations’ garbage owing to our inadequate controls at various ports of entry. It is therefore prudent to be prepared for a likely increase in containerized foreign garbage shipments coming in the months ahead.

North America and Europe are looking for new destinations for their unwanted materials after China banned the importation of used plastics and other recyclables. Chinese recyclers used to import and process much of the Western world’s reusable waste. But China’s “National Sword” policy adopted in January 2018 put Chinese recyclers out of business.

Canada recently pulled out 69 shipping containers of garbage, mostly plastics and household kitchen waste, unlawfully deposited in the Philippines. This was after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to ship back and dump the trash in Canadian territorial waters, and after Manila began downgrading diplomatic ties with Ottawa.

The Philippines also recently shipped back 2.6 tons of shredded electronic and plastic waste from Hong Kong that arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

We should be outraged.

Here’s a suggestion: the Bureau of Customs (BOC) should enforce a compulsory pre-shipment inspection or PSI of containerized imports to thwart all contraband trying to enter the country, including illegal trash and narcotics.

PSI is the practice used by governments, mostly in developing countries, of requiring importers to engage accredited third-party surveyors to verify shipment details, such as the price, quantity and quality of goods, before cargoes depart the exporting country. The practice compensates for inadequacies in the importing country’s customs and other administrative controls, and discourages the undervaluation of taxable shipments from abroad.

At present, BOC only requires the PSI of all bulk and break-bulk cargo, or commodities – mostly in liquid, granular or particulate form – shipped in large quantities, such as crude oil, petroleum, grain, coal and the like.

We are counting on PSI to effectively prevent not only illegal waste and drug shipments, but also the widespread smuggling of high-value farm products, cars, electronics, apparel and what have you, stashed in containers. The PSI of containerized shipments would also put an end to chronic corruption at the BOC that costs the National Treasury tens of billions of pesos in lost import taxes every year.

Just like prohibited drugs, contaminated trash in shipping containers are sneaking into our ports mainly due to corruption and ineffective checks. This must be addressed. Pronto.


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