By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
THE environmental watchdog Ecowaste Coalition said it was hoping President Duterte would tackle concerns on the tons of wastes being shipped into the country from other countries as he delivers his fourth state-of the-nation address (Sona) today.
Ecowaste Coalition national coordinator Aileen Lucero said Duterte should reinforce his resolute stance against foreign waste-dumping and give the environment department and the customs bureau their marching orders to ensure zero entry of all wastes from overseas, including processed residuals cunningly called alternative fuels.
The Coalition is one of the groups advocating for the return of tons of illegally shipped trash back to Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Australia.
Lucero said they also want Duterte to set a definite deadline for the immediate return of wastes dumped in Mindanao to Australia and South Korea.
Even though the trash from Canada and Hong Kong have already been shipped back, the 211 tons of wastes from Australia and the remaining 5,177 metric tons of mixed plastic wastes from South Korea are still in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.
The trash from Australia was declared as “processed engineered fuel” imported by cement manufacturer Holcim Philippines, while those from South Korea were supposedly intended as materials for the plastic recycling facility by VNS Verde Soko Philippine Industrial Corp..
The managements of both Holcim and Verde Soko have assured that they would abide by the Philippine laws.
Just recently, government officials filed cases against the Verde Soko executives, including three South Koreans for violation of customs and environmental laws.
To assure the Filipino people that foreign waste dumping would no longer happen under Duterte’s watch, the Coalition reiterated the need for the government to enforce a complete and permanent ban, not simply a moratorium, on waste imports to the Philippines.
“His fourth Sona is the right time for the chief policy maker to announce a total ban on foreign waste imports and his intent to ratify this year the Basel Ban Amendment and the Minamata Convention on Mercury, two landmark global agreements that seek to protect public health and the environment against hazardous chemicals and wastes,” Lucero said.
Adopted in 1995, the Basil Ban Amendment prohibits the export hazardous wastes and other wastes from developed to developing countries. The ban applies to export for any reason, including recycling.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury, adopted in 2013, seeks to reduce global mercy pollution from human activities that emit and release mercury and its compounds.
The Coalition also expressed its hope that Duterte would use today’s Sona event “to rouse the whole nation into embracing much-needed waste prevention and reduction strategies at all level, including banning single-use plastics, to curb chemical and waste pollution that is also threatening the world’s oceans.
In a recent study, the nongovernment organization Ocean Conservancy found out that the Philippines now ranked third among nations that contribute to the plastic pollution in oceans.
Lucero said they are also calling on Duterte to throw his weight behind the campaign to stop plastic pollution and to urge the 18th Congress to pass without delay a robust law banning single-use plastics, as well as to enact other plastic pollution prevention measures, including the ban on microplastics in personal care and cosmetic products.
The group also expected that the presidential speech would highlight the importance of implementing best ecological practices in waste management without waste-to-energy incineration in all local governments.