Environmental group wants long-term solution on waste importation

Aug. 24, 2019

An engineer points at the pile of plastic wastes that are stored at the facility of Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corp. inside the Phividec Industrial Estate in Barangay Santa Cruz, Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental. The 6,500 tons of plastic trash will be shipped back to South Korea after Verde Soko allegedly failed to secure an import permit and has wrongfully declared the discarded materials. (Jigger J. Jerusalem/davaotoday.com)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Environmental group Greenpeace-Philippines has urged legislators to craft a law that would totally ban waste importation for good following the illegal entry of tons of garbage from South Korea, among others.

“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 a statement posted on its website on Wednesday (Aug. 21).

Over six metric tons of plastic wastes from Pyeongtaek, South Korea was shipped to the Philippines last year. It arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal sub-port in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

The wastes were imported by Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corporation, a start-up company managed by Filipinos and South Koreans, purportedly to be used as materials for its plastic recycling facility inside the Phividec Industrial Estate in Barangay Santa Cruz, Tagoloan.

The shipment was red-flagged by both the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for wrongfully declaring them as “plastic synthetic flakes” and for failing to secure an import permit.

On January, part of the imported Korean garbage, about 1,400 metric tons, was returned to its country of origin.

The rest of the trash, according to Mindanao Container Terminal sub-port collector John Simon, was ready for transport. However, before its reshipment to South Korea, it caught fire on Aug. 15 inside the Verde Soko compound. The fire which lasted 11 hours has raised health concerns.

“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,” Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition National Coordinator, said.

Lucero noted that the incident was a “wake-up call to speed up the removal of the garbage.”

Early this month, EcoWaste Coalition has appealed to South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other political leaders to ship the garbage back to Korea without further delay before it could do more harm to the country’s environment. Before the fire incident, the South Korean Embassy in Manila has assured that it has coordinated with Philippine authorities for the reshipment of the garbage.

The Philippines has already been dubbed an “international dumping site” as countries Canada, Hongkong, and Australia also illegally shipped their garbage here.

The DENR will come out with an administrative order which would soon impose a three-month moratorium on all waste-related imports and requiring a P3-million security bond for every permit issued to importers.

While this and other measures will likely help control trash importation, Greenpeace doubted that this “temporary” solution could address the issue in the long run. (davaotoday.com)

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