Never again

SIXTY-NINE shipping containers of illegally dumped Canadian trash finally set sail for home after a six-year fight to get Canada to comply with the Basel Convention. This historic departure of the reeking garbage from the Port of Subic north of Manila as a victory for the rule of law, morality and the environment.

The Philippines is not the world’s dumpsite. Never again should we allow other countries to trash our dignity, our people’s health and the environment.

This is a victory for the environment and a victory for the rule of law. The Canadian government is now finally going to comply with the Basel Convention and take responsibility for its own wastes. This is what environmental responsibility means.

In 2013 – 2014, 103 containers containing more than 2400 tons of trash from Canada arrived in the Philippines, wrongly declared as scrap plastics for recycling but actually found to contain unsorted plastics, household garbage, used adult diapers and electronic waste. Under Basel Convention rules, Canada should have repatriated its waste within 30 days, but instead pressured the Philippines government to process the illegal shipment locally. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau noted the dumping issue in two subsequent trips to the Philippines in 2015 and 2017 but refused to commit to taking back the trash.

A 2019 legal opinion from Canada-based Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation found that Canada’s refusal to repatriate its trash constituted illegal traffic, among other Basel Convention violations. On April 23, President Duterte demanded that Canada take back its illegally dumped trash. Philippines recalled its Ambassador and consults after Canada missed the May 15 deadline.

Canada should have complied with the Basel Convention and repatriated its illegal garbage exports years ago. It should not take a presidential threat to get Canada or any other country to comply with the Basel Convention.

Going forward, both Canada and the Philippines need to learn from this frustrating experience, so that it is never repeated. How? Both countries should rapidly ratify the Basel Ban Amendment which prohibits the export of hazardous wastes and other wastes from developed to developing countries for any reason, including recycling. New global rules enacted at a recent Basel Convention meeting will stop unrestricted plastic waste exports. However, strengthening Philippines law is also an important step to prevent future dumping say the groups.

This ordeal has taught us of the urgency of correcting outmoded regulations allowing waste imports into the country under the guise of recycling. We need to close this ghastly loophole that is facilitating illegal waste traffic and turning our country into a dumping ground for plastic, electronic and hazardous wastes, which should be recycled, treated or disposed of in the country where such wastes were generated.


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