BOC collector gets Environmental Justice Award

BOC collector gets Environmental Justice Award

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - February 21, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A Bureau of Customs (BOC) collector, who worked on sending back over 7,600 metric tons of illegal waste from South Korea in 2018, is one of the seven winners of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards.

BOC Collection District 10 Collector John Simon was cited as one of eight AEEA awardees for fighting transboundary environmental crime in a virtual ceremony held last Feb. 17.

In a letter sent to Simon, dated Dec. 2, 2020, the UNEP informed him that his “excellent work in combatting transboundary environmental crime has been recognized by a panel of international experts from the United Nations and partner agencies.”

“This award means so much to me. This is a recognition that provides the apex of my career serving the government, serving our country and now serving humanity. This is a recognition that I will cherish and treasure all my life,” he said.

In July 2018, a huge shipment of garbage arrived from South Korea and was stored at the Mindanao International Container Port (MICP) in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, where it posed health and environmental hazards.

When Simon was appointed as the new Customs collector in the area in October 2018, he revealed that it was not only 5,000 metric tons of garbage but more than 7,000 metric tons.

He said the shipment was issued with a re-exportation order back to its country of origin. However, “the process of repatriation was not an easy one because there are many issues to be resolved to make it compliant to the provisions of the Basel Convention.”

Simon also had to solve the issue of logistics or putting the garbage in tonner bags and loading them in 40-foot containers 360 in total, which is equivalent to over 7,600 metric tons.

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the BOC had to make eight trips in order to return all the waste back to Korea. The voyages took place from January 2020 to September 2020.

Simon named the reported importer as Charles Cho of Verde Soko and who, upon verification with the Interpol, was allegedly the subject of a warrant of arrest in Korea since 2016 for economic crimes.

Reportedly in hiding, Cho now has a pending case before a regional trial court in Cagayan de Oro City and an arrest warrant issued against him.

The seven other UNEP-AEEA awardees are the Philippine Operation Group on Ivory and the Illegal Wildlife Trade (POGI); the Police Central Investigation Bureau in Nepal; Department of Wildlife Peninsula Malaysia & Royal Malaysia Police Task Force in Malaysia; Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) in India; Enforcement Division, Department of Environment in Malaysia; Indonesia National Police & Ministry of Environment & Forestry in Indonesia and the Athgarh Forest Division in India.

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