Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Who are to Blame for the Canadian Garbage Mess?

by Anton Antonio
July 22, 2015

On June 2013, fifty (50) forty-foot container vans of used heterogeneous (meaning: diverse in character and content) waste materials began to arrive in Manila, Philippines.  The container vans from Canada actually included used plastic bags, bottles, newspaper, household garbage and used Canadian adult diapers.  This month (July 2015), some of the container vans were transported to a landfill in Capas, Tarlac for disposition.  Although some of the Canadian garbage has already been dumped, the Local Government Units (Provincial Government and Municipality of Capas) in Tarlac were successful stopping the dumping of remaining trash.  And now, the Philippine government is looking for alternative landfills in Luzon to bury the Canadian garbage.

This common question persists… “Who is or are to blame for this Canadian garbage mess?  You may want to consider the following answers to this question:
  1. The Government of Canada for allowing the shipment in spite of the fact that it is a signatory to the Basel Convention together with the Philippines.  The Basel Convention, enforced in March 22, 1988, is an international agreement “to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations and specifically 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”.
  2. The consignee/importer (Chronic Plastics, Inc. in the Philippines; and, the shipper/exported, Chronic, Inc. of Canada) for trading with banned items per the Basel Convention.
  3. The Philippine Bureau of Customs that declared the importation as unlawful pursuant to Philippine Republic Act No. 6969 otherwise known as the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Act of 1990 but failed (or at the very least was not aggressive enough) to implement this particular law.  This Bureau could have prevented the off-loading of this shipment on Philippine Ports and immediately recommending that the same be returned.
  4. The Philippine Department of Health – Bureau of Quarantine which opened the container vans in March 13, 2014 (nine months after the shipment arrived) and decided to simply disinfect them at the expense of the Philippine Government.  This Department should have taken a pro-active stance in returning the shipment to Canada on the grounds that it may affect human health.  The disinfection was made since the waste materials in the container vans began to leak and was already posting a serious risk to the health of the community living and working at the Port Area and also the environment particularly Manila Bay.
  5. The Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources for flip-flopping on their declaration… on June 2013, the Department reported the presence of toxic and hazardous waste while reporting the absence of such on July 2015.  The Department’s July 2015 recommendation to transport and dispose of the Canadian garbage in Capas, Tarlac is contrary to its initial report.  The Department should have also strictly enforced Republic Act No. 6969.
  6. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs for simply sweeping the Canadian garbage problem under the rug and in the name of diplomacy.  This Department sacrificed Philippine “national pride” on the altar of international relations.

Lastly, the Filipino People are also largely to blame for the Canadian garbage mess because of their apathy (meaning: lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern) for important national and environmental issues.  Sadly, even when the writing is clearly on the wall that the Canadian and Philippine governments are to blame, there are but a few who openly reacted to this environmental injustice… a handful of pro-environmental advocates and activists, a token number of on-line rebels from social media, a limited number of government officials (mostly LGUs from Tarlac), and a few concerned citizens. Filipinos seem to be… too tolerant for greed, graft and corruption in government, too ignorant of the dire consequences of environmental neglect, and too shy to display nationalism.  These are all the misplaced and dysfunctional senses of our kind.  Still, a lot of them obliviously (meaning: not aware of or not concerned about what is happening around them) ask, “Who is to blame for the Canadian garbage mess?”

Just my little thoughts…

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