Eco groups urge Trudeau to finally resolve issue of trash dumped in Philippines

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Eco groups urge Trudeau to finally resolve issue of trash dumped in Philippines
In this file photo, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses journalists at the ASEAN media center in Pasay City, Philippines on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017.
Philstar.com / Efigenio Christopher Toledo, File

MANILA, Philippines — Local and international organizations called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take action on the long-standing issue of tons of garbage illegally brought into the Philippines from Canada.

Environmental group EcoWaste Coalition sent letters to Trudeau and Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna on January 30, urging them to resolve the dumping scandal involving 103 containers of mixed garbage.

Copies of the letters were given to reporters Tuesday.

In a letter addressed to Trudeau, EcoWaste Coalition National Coordinator Aileen Lucero dumping Canada's trash in the Philippines is immoral and illegal.

“The scandal has dragged on for five years without resolution despite promises from the Canadian government to address the problem, including public statements made by yourself as prime minister,” Lucero said.

She appealed to the Canadian government to provide a definite date on when it will take back the garbage “so that this protracted deal can finally be promptly ended.”

The 103 shipping containers—which contained household trash, used adult diapers and electronic waste—arrived in the country’s ports between 2013 and 2014.

EcoWaste Coalition said the shipment violated the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, which says that “the state of export shall ensure that the waste in question are taken back by the exporter or the generator or, if necessary, by itself into the state of export.”

The local environmental group also called on Canada to ratify the Basel Ban amendment. The amendment prohibits the export of hazardous waste for any reason from a list of developed countries to developing countries.

Canada is one of the eligible countries that have not supported the amendment.

Int’l, Canadian groups to Trudeau: Heed EcoWaste’s call

International and Canadian environmental, health and human rights organizations backed the latest bid of EcoWaste Coalition to get the garbage returned to its source.

In a letter sent to Trudeau last February 11, the groups urged the prime minister to ensure the expeditious return of the wastes dumped in the Philippines and ratify the Basel Ban amendment.

“We applauded your earlier statements that Canada is back as a responsible global citizen and intends to provide strong, positive leadership at the United Nations, particularly on environmental issue,” the groups said.

They added: “The Basel Convention is an important UN Convention to uphold environmental responsibility and environmental justice. We call on you to demonstrate commitment to the Convention and fulfil the actions requested by the EcoWaste Coalition of the Philippines.”

Among the signatories were Greenpeace Canada, Basel Action Network, Toronto Environment Alliance, European Society for Environmental and Occupational Medicine, ToxicsWatch Alliance of India.

Trudeau in 2017: Canada committed to cleaning up garbage dumping issue

Trudeau said during the 2017 Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila that his country is committed to solving the garbage dumping issue.

“I am committed to him (President Rodrigo Duterte) as much as I am committing to you that Canada is working hard to resolve the issue,” he said.

“It is now theoretically possible to take it back,” he added, saying legal impediments on the return of the garbage had been resolved.

But two years later after his statement, the Canadian garbage is still languishing in the Philippine soil.

Trash dumping in the Philippines

Lucero of EcoWaste Coalition noted the “stark contrast” between Canada and South Korea on resolving trash-dumping issue.

“In contrast to Canada’s apparent disinterest in resolving the issue, South Korea has acted to address illegal waste shipments to the Philippines,” she said.

The first batch of garbage illegally brought into the Philippines finally arrived in South Korea last February 4—around seven months after the waste shipments arrived at a port in Mindanao.

EcoWaste Coalition earlier called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to ban plastic waste importation “to safeguard human health and the environment.”

The Philippines is one of the most plastic polluting countries along with its fellow Asian nations China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

In 2018, China closed its doors to plastic waste imports from overseas. Vietnam followed, temporarily banning plastic waste imports after the surge in trash shipment caused by China’s ban.

Two months later, Malaysia permanently stopped the issuance of import permits for plastic wastes.

An article on The Conversation stressed those living in the global north has responsibility for the plastic crisis in the global south.

“The export of waste from the global north to the global south has been controversial for more than 30 years. The United Nations Development Programme argued in 1989 that this perpetuates inequality and supports the movement of waste across borders,” the article said.

It cited news reports on how Canada, the United States, United Kingdom and Australia diverted much of their waste to Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam flowing China’s ban on imported waste.

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