By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
GREENPEACE Philippines joined other environmental advocates in asking lawmakers to work on legislating a ban on the entry of trash from overseas, and for the government to work with South Korea to hasten the return of the 5,177 metric tons of garbage still at the state-run economic zone in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.
In a statement it posted on its website, Greenpeace said it is in solidarity with Ecowaste Coalition in calling for the immediate return of the garbage to Pyeongtaek City, South Korea.
The wastes, which arrived in two batches from Pyeongtaek last year, were imported by Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corp. purportedly to be used as materials for its plastic recycling facility inside the Phividec Industrial Estate in Barangay Santa Cruz, Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.
Verde Soko, a start-up company with a mix of Filipinos and South Koreans holding top positions, was not able to start it operation as the tons of plastic trash were red-flagged by both the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for wrongfully declaring them as “plastic synthetic flakes” and for failing to secure an import permit.
Early this month, Ecowaste Coalition has written to South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other political leaders essentially appealing to them to ship back the garbage without further delay before it could do more harm to the country’s environment.
In response, the South Korean Embassy in Manila has assured that it has coordinated with Philippine authorities for the reshipment of the garbage.
Greenpeace noted that while some measures, like a DENR administrative order which would impose a three-month moratorium on all waste-related imports and requiring a P3 million security bond for every permit issued to importers, will likely help control trash importation, the group doubted this “temporary” solution could address the issue in the long run.
“We need urgent action on long-term solutions. If the Philippine and South Korean governments are serious in solving this crisis, they should act now to legislate a policy permanently banning waste imports. This should include prosecuting and penalizing parties involved,” said Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia regional campaign coordinator.
In January, part of the imported garbage, about 1,400 metric tons, was returned to its country of origin.
But before the rest of the trash could be transported back to South Korea, it caught fire lasting 11 hours, inside the Verde Soko compound on Aug. 15, raising health concerns.
Ecowaste Coalition national coordinator Aileen Lucero said the conflagration was a “wake-up call to speed up the removal of the garbage.”
“We can no longer allow another incident, accidental or deliberate, to occur and put the health and safety of the people at grave risk. President Moon Jae-in should now intervene to hasten his country’s re-importation of their trash,” Lucero added.
Before the incident, Mindanao Container Terminal sub-port collector John Simon has said the garbage were ready for transport.