PHILIPPINES:Mountain of Vancouver garbage that ended up in Manila has Philippines demanding Canada repatriate its ‘junk

Monday 20 October 2014

Date: 15 October 2014

Source: National Post

Type: News

Keywords: Environment, environmental justice

A small mountain of Vancouver garbage rotting on the Manila waterfront has morphed into a diplomatic row as Philippine authorities demand Canada repatriate its “junk.”

“I will not tolerate this matter sitting down,” said Leah Paquiz, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, in a statement last week.

“Pick up your garbage Canada, and show us the decency that we so rightfully deserve as a nation. My motherland is not a garbage bin of Canada,” she said.

Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has called for an official government inquiry into the Canadian garbage, the country’s Bureau of Customs has threatened legal action, and of late the issue has made Canada a prime target of Philippine environmental groups.

“Canada pick up your garbage!!! reads a 25,000-signature petition demanding Ottawa’s immediate “re-export” of the trash. “Philippines is NOT a dumping soil of Canadian garbage!”

The saga began last February when the Philippine Bureau of Customs inspected a batch of 50 Canadian shipping containers declared to contain “scrap plastic materials for recycling,” and instead found them packed with household garbage, soggy paper and even used adult diapers.

Declaring the shipment “junk materials [that] could pose biohazard risks,” officials impounded the shipment at Manila International Container Terminal.

The containers, packed with waste sourced from the Vancouver area, were sent by Chronic Inc., a Whitby, Ont.-based plastics exporter owned by Jim Makris.

The telephone numbers for the company appear to have been disconnected, but in February, Mr. Makris spoke to the Toronto Star by phone about the Philippine seizure.

“It’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard of in my entire life,” he said, adding that “anyone with a brain” would know it is cheaper to dump garbage in Canada than ship it across the Pacific Ocean.

Noting that he had exported similar shipments without incident, the exporter said he suspected he was being punished for failing to furnish a payoff.

As of mid-October, Chronic Inc. had not removed the containers and appears to have no plans to do so.

Meanwhile, after months of curdling in the tropical Manila weather, the shipment’s contents are reportedly in the later stages of decomposition, and have begun to leak “garbage juice.”

According to the estimates of one Philippine political party, they have cost the government more than $1.5-million in storage fees to date at the crowded container terminal.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this unabashed attempt to dump hazardous waste misrepresented as recyclable plastics into our country,” Romy Hidalgo with the Manila-based EcoWaste Coalition told the Philippine Daily Enquirer on Tuesday in the one of dozens of Philippine news stories published about the garbage fiasco.

The Philippines contends that the containers are a violation of the Basel Convention, a United Nations treaty on hazardous wastes.

Under that treaty — of which Canada is a signatory — countries are obligated to repatriate any “illegal traffic” intercepted overseas.

The garbage uproar appears to have come as a surprise to Canada’s Philippine diplomats. As early as April, ambassador Neil Reeder was telling the local press, “We don’t want this to be a stain on our very, very good relationship.”

Nevertheless, according to Canadian foreign officials, their hands remain tied about shuffling the rotting shipment back across the Pacific.

“Currently there are no domestic laws which the Government of Canada could apply to compel the shipper to return his containers to Canada,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade told the National Post by email.

“The Government of Canada is working with the shipper and the Government of the Philippines to find a solution to this waste shipment in the Philippines, in accordance with our two countries’ respective regulations and legislative frameworks.”

Last week, Greenpeace’s Philippine office released what it called a “damning exposé” — a leaked letter from the country’s Department of Environment showing that Canada and the Philippines were working to have the waste disposed “locally in a landfill.”

This is controversial among members of Philippine eco-circles, who maintain the trash should be removed from the country’s borders.

“This government proposal sends a signal to unscrupulous and illegal waste traders to ship their unwanted junk to the Philippines,” said Von Hernandez, director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia in a statement last week. “There can be no compromises here — this garbage shipment must be sent back to Canada, its country of origin.”###

See online : National Post

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