May 09, 2019
THE nation must be breathing a sigh of relief that the Canadian government has apparently begun making arrangements to take back, at its own expense, 69 containers of trash shipped from that country into the Philippines in 2013 and 2014. But this resolution of the Canadian trash scandal should not be the end of our efforts to rid the Philippines of other countries’ garbage.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier expressed exasperation over the unresolved issue and demanded that Canada remove the waste that has been festering for too long at the port in Manila by May 15.
Although the Bureau of Customs has reported that the Canadian authorities are unlikely to be able to meet that deadline due to various import requirements, the necessary work at least seems to have gotten underway at last.
The Canadian trash shipment is just one of many cases of unwanted and hazardous waste being dumped on the Philippines by shippers from other countries. In recent months, foreign trash has been discovered in Cebu and Northern Mindanao.
If our authorities do not act aggressively to prevent it, the problem for the Philippines is bound to grow worse, compared with that for other countries such as China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia as their governments have started imposing bans on most waste imports.
China at one time was the world’s largest importer of waste, particularly plastic waste, which could be recycled into thousands of cheap products. But the Chinese government has been making an effort to clean up the country’s poor reputation for environmental protection, and to that end imposed a ban on 34 categories of imported waste last year. The ban will take effect in two steps this year and next, but its impact on neighboring countries was felt almost as soon as it was announced. Countries like the US, Japan and South Korea that generate enormous amounts of waste and had been relying on China to dispose of it were suddenly left scrambling for new destinations.
The Philippines, with its unfortunate reputation for having weak import controls and a casual attitude toward environmental risks, naturally became an attractive alternative.
Neighboring countries that were also targeted recognized the implications of the Chinese ban much more quickly and imposed their own restrictions. But not fast enough, in some cases; as of late last year, an estimated 30,000 containers of waste were sitting stranded in Thai ports, and Vietnam had some 9,000, most of them in the already badly congested port of Cat Lai.
Those examples should serve as a warning of what could happen in the Philippines if quick action is not taken. The country does have import regulations that apply to various forms of waste and scrap materials, but these are too often abused by unscrupulous traders and pliable Customs personnel. Likewise, we have a very strong law in RA 9003, the Solid Waste Management Act, but it has proven difficult to enforce because the country’s waste management infrastructure is so inadequate for our growing population.
For the country’s protection, the government should impose an immediate, comprehensive ban on waste imports, including those dodgy product classifications that allow waste to enter the country, such as “raw materials” or “scrap for recycling.” More focus should also be given to developing waste management and recycling facilities, and rigorously enforcing existing environmental laws.
A clear message needs to be sent that the Philippines is not the world’s dumpsite, and it needs to be sent now, before we find ourselves grappling with a problem that makes Canada’s unwanted trash look insignificant by comparison.
Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net