Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Canadian Garbage Mess (Update)

by Anton Antonio
July 29, 2015

“Strike while the iron is hot.”… is an adage the still applies today.  My late father even added:  “You can keep the iron hot by striking it.”  So how do we relate the “iron” in these statements to our present situation?... the Canadian garbage mess.

Most people are under the impression that the Canadian garbage mess will be history and forgotten in no time.  Perhaps they do not have the slightest idea on the passion, commitment and resolve present-day pro-environment advocates and activist have.  Please read the following news reports published just recently:


Manila, Philippines – If the Philippine and Canadian governments won’t do anything about the illegal Canada waste being dumped into Philippine landfills, perhaps and international body will.  This is the hope of Philippine environmental group BAN Toxics who has formally asked the international Basel Convention to intervene.  The international Basel Action Network and BAN Toxics have submitted a formal letter to the Secretariat of the Basel Convention to begin proceedings on Canada’s refusal to fulfil its obligations to the Convention.  Canada is a signatory to the international agreement and is thus bound to its rules.  The Basel Convention, to which 53 countries are signatories, is an international treaty to control the movement of hazardous waste between nations, specifically the transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries.  “BAN and Ban Toxics, in their letter to Basel Convention Executive Secretary Dr. Rolph Payet, assert that as household wastes are a Basel Convention Annex II waste, Canada is bound to strictly control export,” reads a press release sent on July 28.  Asking the Basel Convention Secretariat to intervene has been the suggestion of many lawmakers, including former International Criminal Court judge senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.  Two years after the first 50 container vans of Canada garbage arrives in the Manila port, the Philippine government has agreed with Canada’s terms to dump the waste in local sanitary landfills.  Forty-eight more container vans were found in the Manila port last May bringing the total number of vans to 98.  Environmentalists decided to take matters into their own hands after being disappointed by government action.  “We know that the Philippine government has been pressured by Canada not to put up a fuss.  So our government is not going to file a non-compliance brief,” said Ban Toxics Executive Director Richard Gutierrez.  In their letter, the groups ask the Secretariat to bring the case to a special committee within the Convention that handles cases of non-compliance.  Under the treaty, only the governments of the countries involved and the Secretariat can bring cases to the committee.  IN the Convention test, the Secretariat is mandated to “assist Parties upon request in their identification of cases of illegal traffic and to circulate immediately to the Parties concerned any information it has received regarding illegal traffic.”  “Cases like this require the Secretariat to act,” said Gutierrez.  “If this gross non-compliance is simply swept under the carpet, the Basel Convention and indeed all international laws becomes but a sad joke.”  The issue has sparked outrage among other nationals, not least Canadian citizens themselves.  Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the US-based Basel Action Network said, “Canada has admitted to us, that it has failed to properly implement the Basel Convention.  This means that they are not in compliance and that has resulted in significant economic and potential environmental harm to the Philippines.”  Both the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Canadian embassy insist the garbage is neither toxic nor hazardous and thus not covered by the Convention.  When the Bureau of Customs inspected some of the container vans, they said they found mixed and unsorted plastic, household garbage, and used adult diapers.  The container vans had been misdeclared as containing recyclable plastic scrap materials, a crime under the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines and the Toxic Substance and Hazardous Wastes and Nuclear Wastes Control Acts of 1990.  But even if the garbage is not hazardous, household waste still falls under Article 9 of the Convention which deals with illegal traffic.  “Any transboundary movement of hazardous waste or other wastes… with consent obtained from States concerned through falsification, misrepresentation or fraud… shall be deemed to be illegal traffic,” reads the treaty.  If the illegal traffic is due to the conduct of the exporter, in this case Chronis Incorporated and Live Green Enterprises, it is Canada’s responsibility to ensure the wastes are taken back by the two firms “or, if necessary, by itself into the State of export” unless “impracticable.”  Article 4 also states that the obligation to manage both hazardous and other wastes in an environmentally sound manner “may not under any circumstances be transferred to the States of import or transit.”  The Philippine government has files charges against the Philippine importer of the first 50 container vans.  Canada has said it has “no domestic or international authority” to compel Chronic Inc and Live Green Enterprises to return the waste to Canada.  The contents of 26 container vans have already been dumped at the Metro Clark Waste Management Corporation in Capas, Tarlac as of July 22, according to BOC.  Five are at the Manila International Container Port while 16 are at the SBMA Port of Subic.  The Tarlac provincial government ordered the dumping to be stopped pending a local inquiry and more thorough study of the garbage’s impact to health and environment.  Both houses of Congress have files resolutions to investigate the issue.  Senator Santiago opposes the decision of the Philippine government to allow the dumping in its own soil saying it “sets a dangerous precedent for other countries to dump their waste in Philippine soil with impunity.” ---


CITY OF SAN FERNANDO (US) – Basel Action Network (BAN) based in Seattle, Washington, on Monday asked the secretariat of the United Nations on the Basel Convention to file a case against Canada following the dumping of 26 container vans of waste in a sanitary landfill in Capas, Tarlac.  Jim Puckett, BAN executive director, proposed legal action on behalf of its Philippine partner BAN Toxics, by filing an official notification of noncompliance by Canada with the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.  The notice was contained in Puckett’s July 27 letter to Dr. Rolph Payet, Basel Convention executive secretary.  The Philippines and Canada signed the convention which was adopted on March 22, 1989, in Base, Switzerland, and enforced beginning 1992.  The United Nations Environmental Program is a partner in implementing the convention.  The convention’s website said the agreement was “in response to a public outcry following the discovery, in the 1980s, in Africa and other parts of the developing world of deposits of toxic wastes imported from abroad.”  Puckett said the convention is “at risk if we do not respond to one of the most well-publicized, egregious and unresolved cases we have seen in recent years.”  “We ask that the secretariat take up this case and utilize the mechanism [for promoting implementation and compliance with the Basel Convention] as it was intended to be used,” he said.  The Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized 103 container vans that an importer, identified as Jim Makris, brought in several batches since May 2013 because these were misdeclared to be containing “scrap materials.”  The container vans were consigned to Valenzuela City-based Chronic Plastics.  The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) reported three of 55 container vans to be packed with “municipal solid wastes.”  BOC was ordered by a Manila Regional Trial Court in April to dispose of the wastes in 34 container vans and return the empty vans to the owner, Zim, through its local agent, Le Soleil.  BOC chose to use the landfill of the Metro Clark Waste Management Corp. (MCWMC) in Sitio Kalangitan in Capas town.  Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder said in June 2014 that Canada had no domestic or international authority to compel the shipper to return the shipment to his country.  Also on Monday, Clark Development Corp. (CDC), MCWMC and Tarlac Vice Gov. Enrique Cojuangco Jr. turned down the proposal of Gov. Victor Yap to pay P1 million to MCWMC to remove the Canadian trash in the landfill and return these to BOC.  “Talks about donation or payment is immaterial, to say the least, because [the Tarlac provincial government] has prohibited the disposal of foreign wastes,” said Arthur Tugade, CDC president and chief executive officer.  CDC, tasked by law to convert Clark, a former United States military air base, into civilian use, owns the property where Kalangitan landfill operates.  Yap offered to pay P1 million in a letter to Tugade on July 22.  Tugade said Tarlac officials and residents need not worry about further dumping of Canadian trash because MCWMC had installed additional duplicate locks on eight container vans that BOC delivered on July 15.  BOC had not sent more containers.  Rufo Colayco, MCWMC president and chief executive officer, said Yap’s offer was unnecessary.  “Maraming salamat ho (Thank you).  We are not after the money.  What is important is we do what is right and that means agreeing to the request of BOC to dispose of the garbage and disinfect the container [vans],” he said.  “We respect the decision of Tarlac officials not to accept wastes of foreign origin,” he added.  Cojuangco disagreed with paying MCWMC.  “I think it’s wrong to be paying them when we should be suing parties involved.  The Senate should investigate the incident [because] the violations [are] greater than the realm of local government scope,” he said. ---

“Ningas cogon” is the pervasive rot that weakens Filipino resolve.  “Ningas cogon” is defined as the attitude when something is started with interest and enthusiasm, then after a very short time, interest is suddenly lost leaving things incomplete or unfinished; like a cogon grass fire burning out quickly.  I just hope and pray that this will not be the fate of the Canadian garbage mess.

Just my little thoughts…

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