Friday, April 25, 2014

Dear Canada, We Don't Need Your Garbage!

by Antonio C. Antonio
April 25, 2014

Chronology of Events:

·         March 22, 1988 – The Philippines was a signatory to an international agreement “to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries.”  The agreement’s primary objective is “to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous waste.”

·         May 5, 1992 – The Basel Convention, held a month before the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, on hazardous waste outlawed the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries.

·         June 2013 – 50 forty-foot container vans of used heterogeneous (meaning: diverse in character and content) waste materials began to arrive in Manila, Philippines.  The containers vans from Canada actually included used plastic bags, bottles, newspaper, household garbage and (lo and behold) used Canadian adult diapers.  The consignee was Chronic Plastics and the shipper was Chronic, Inc.  The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOD) declared the importation as unlawful pursuant to Republic Act No. 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Act of 1990).  This exportation from Canada violates the Basel Convention of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal.

·         February 2014 – The BOC filed a complaint before the Philippine Department of Justice (DoJ) against the shipper, Chronic Plastics.

·         March 13, 2014 – The Philippine Government through the Department of Health (DoH) – Bureau of Quarantine opened the 18 containers vans from this particular importation and reported the need for these to be disinfected… the cost of disinfection shall be shouldered by the Philippine Government.  The waste materials in the containers vans has began to post serious risk to the health of the community living and working at the Port Area and also the environment particularly Manila Bay.

·         March 17, 2014 – The DoH – Bureau of Quarantine, in consultation with other concerned Philippine Government agencies, commenced disinfection procedure on the 18 container vans using sodium hypochlorite (bleaching solution).

The 50 container vans are still at the Port Area and garbage juice is now leaking from the containers vans and endangering the health and well being of people and the environment.

Who is to blame?  There are a few who say that the Canadian Government will never intentionally violate the Basel Convention… that they were, quite possibly, not even aware of their unintentional export of waste materials to the Philippines...  and that this is just the workings of unscrupulous businessmen from both the Philippines and Canada.  Well… please do not insult the intelligence of the Filipino People.  This is simply adding insult to injury!

Perhaps the better question to ask is:  How could Canada, with all its advancement in systems and procedures, technology, economy and culture, err on this particular shipment?  Personally, I find it very hard squaring up to the possibility that the Canadian Government simply fell out of consciousness while these container vans were being inspected, documented and loaded for shipment.  Whether this export was intentional or not is something I don’t know.  But this I know… pwede silang mag-tanga-tangahan but this will no longer defeat the fact that we, poor Filipinos, now think that there are idiots in the Canadian bureaucracy.  The next question then would be: How could 50 forty-foot container vans go unnoticed?  It is also of equal importance that the Canadian government should refrain from hiring the blind or the visually impaired for seaports assignment.

I feel strongly that this goes beyond a simple isolated case of a freak shipment of waste materials to the Philippines.  There is a deeper reason to all these.  It is also a case of respect or the lack of respect for us as a people and as a nation.  Canada, a 1st World country, should learn to respect developing economies (like us) and not treat them as their garbage dumpsite.

Today, I related this incident to a parking attendant and he was quick to reply:  “Ang bastos pala ng mga Canadian na ‘yan.  Dapat hakutin ang mga basura na ‘yan at itambak sa embahada nila!”  But this will not get rid of the problem.  The Philippines should immediately return these 50 container vans of waste materials to Canada with a little note that says: “Dear Canada, We don’t need your garbage!!!”

Just my little thoughts…

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