SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — ALL the garbage brouhaha for the past six years has finally resulted to the return of 69 container vans containing “hazardous” wastes to Canada.
“After mounting several creative protest actions… and sending not a few letters and petitions to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his predecessor since 2014, we are finally reaping the hard-earned fruits of our people’s persistent fight for environmental justice,” said Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.
A total of 103 container vans of waste from Canada were discovered in the Port of Manila between 2013-2014, and moved here for storage while the government was in a quandary on what to do with it. However, in 2015, the contents of 26 were covertly dumped in a landfill in Capas, Tarlac.
Eight (8) container vans have not been accounted for, prompting EcoWaste Coalition to file a Freedom of Information request to the Bureau of Customs (BoC) “to shed light on this matter of public interest.” BoC has yet to respond.
The containers were loaded through the night on MV Bavaria which left the Subic Bay Freeport around 7 AM today.
With the public outrage over the dumping of wastes by other countries on Philippines soil boiling over, President Rodrigo Duterte earlier threatened to “go to war” with Canada if the latter refuses to take back its garbage by May 15, 2019. Canada ignored Duterte’s deadline, however, and no war was declared, although he did recall the country’s diplomats in Canada.
Local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) groups, aside from EcoWaste Coalition, including Greenpeace Philippines, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, BAN Toxics, and the Global Break Free from Plastic Movement, attribute the “victory” to the “concerted effort of the people.”
It can be recalled that the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, herself, was at the forefront of the fight against the dumping of foreign wastes on Philippines soil.
She raised a howl in 2015 when the government started to dispose the Canadian waste in Tarlac, effectively preventing the dumping of the contents of the remaining container vans there.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chair & Administrator Wilma T. Eisma says she is relieved that the waste has finally left the Subic Bay Freeport.
An advocate of “safe & clean environment,” Eisma said she would not allow any more similar waste shipments to be stored in the Freeport under her administration.
“My Seaport team is monitoring that all these 69 containers are going up there on the ship which will leave for Canada early in the morning,” Eisma assured the media last night.
Recently, more waste shipments to the Philippines have been discovered, particularly in Mindanao, coming from China, South Korea and Australia.
The government has yet to punish or penalize the people behind the waste imports, as NGOs renew their call for the Philippines to ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment that prohibits the transboundary movement of wastes among countries for final disposal.
“Canada’s waste shipment to the Philippines has put in the spotlight how developed countries are exploiting weak national regulations and loopholes in international conventions in order to dump waste process in poor countries,” said Lea Guerrero, country director, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines, in a statement, “Imposing a ban to close the doors our doors to all waste shipments and ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment will send a strong message that the Philippines is not a dumping ground.”