Quezon City, Philippines: Civil society groups advocating for a zero-waste and toxics-free Philippines appealed to the government anew to adopt pivotal measures that will protect the country from the detrimental impacts of exploitative global waste trade.
At the recently concluded General Assembly of EcoWaste Coalition, the groups passed a resolution urging President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment, an international law prohibiting hazardous waste exports from developed to developing countries.
To date some 101 countries have ratified the amendment, which entered into force on December 5, 2019.
To plug loopholes in current regulations that permit the importation of recyclable materials containing hazardous substances, the groups further asked the president to declare a national ban on all waste imports.
“These twin policy measures – ratifying the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and declaring a comprehensive ban on waste imports – are essential to provide our country with a strong legal protection against dumping and ensure that the right of every Filipino to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is upheld,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition.
“It’s our turn to shut our doors to illegal and ‘legal’ waste imports and send an unequivocal message to waste brokers and traffickers that we are dumping grounds no more.”
The government should make the ratification of the Basel Convention a priority to protect people’s right to a healthy environment, Marian Ledesma, Zero Waste Campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines.
“Beyond safeguarding the Philippines from hazardous waste and all the associated risks created by waste trade, it safeguards our nation from exploitation by wealthier states who must be stopped from externalizing the costs of their waste generation to lower-income countries and be made accountable for their own waste,” Ledesma said.
Bucking The Entry of Overseas Waste
Environmental activists are not the only ones bucking the entry of waste from overseas.
Among the groups’ allies is John Simon, an official of the Bureau of Customs (BOC). Simon is responsible for the decisive re-export in 2019-2020 of some 7,408 metric tons of contaminated plastic garbage shipments from South Korea.
He received in 2021 the Environmental Justice Award from the EcoWaste Coalition and the Asia Environmental Enforcement Award from the World Customs Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme for his work.
“Our bitter experience with the contaminated and illegal waste imports from South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, and Canada, which are still fresh in our people’s minds, tells us that strong policies are needed to end the entry of hazardous waste and other wastes into our territory,” Simon, the former BOC-10 District Collector who is now stationed at the Port of Clark, said.
The groups are also urging the government to stop plastic pollution at source, ban single-use plastics, and come up with a list for phase out of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging for phase out.
The government has to make clear of its commitment to a zero-waste and non-toxic economy, they said. (amm/ Ecowaste Coalition)