Waste materials from Australia not illegal, says Customs official

May. 23, 2019

A Bureau of Customs personnel checks the trash from South Korea before it was shipped back to its point of origin recently. Just this week another shipment of waste materials which came from Australia was put on hold by the Customs at the port in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental. (Jigger J. Jerusalem/davaotoday.com)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The close to a dozen container vans that arrived from Australia early this month were not toxic garbage but processed materials which will be used as fuel for a cement company’s manufacturing plants, said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Thursday.

The importer of the nine container vans declared its contents as “processed engineered fuel,” said lawyer Roswald Joseph Pague, BOC-10 deputy customs collector.

The materials arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal (MCT) in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental on May 3.

Allaying fears that the materials may be hazardous and are pure garbage like the trash from Canada and South Korea, Pague said that the imported processed engineered fuel (PEF), which contains items from municipal waste such as plastic, rubber, wood, and paper, are safe and will not pose any hazard to the public.

“The evil that we’re trying to avoid [is that] it might cause seepage to the water tables or whatever contamination, it totally absent considering that it will be directly fed to the furnace,” Pague said, referring to the cement manufacturer Holcim Philippines Inc., a member of the Lafarge Holcim Group, the company that imported the materials.

Holcim will use the PEF in their cement plants in Davao and Lugait in Misamis Oriental.

Pague said the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) has cleared Holcim to import the PEF for its cement manufacturing process.

This reporter was able to obtain copies of letters from the Singapore-based ResourceCo Asia Pte. Ltd. and EMB signifying government’s approval to the importation of the PEF.

In 2017, ResourceCo sought EMB’s approval to export PEF and to supply the same to the cement manufacturers in the Philippines.

In his letter to EMB, Pavel Cech, ResourceCo managing director said “the cement manufacturers in the country have been continuously exploring the use of green and alternative fuels and raw materials (AFR) for use in their cement manufacturing process as part of their sustainability programs.”

EMB director Metodio Turbella replied in his Oct. 30, 2017 letter that the agency has interposed no objection on the importation of PEF to be used as an alternative fuel in the cement kiln.

In March this year, Turbella has maintained that its approval of ResourceCo is “technically binding until such time that there will be updated legislation or policy on the importation of recyclable materials prohibiting the importation of PEF.”

The imported materials are currently stored at the Phividec Industrial Estate compound in Tagoloan.

In a television interview Wednesday, MCT collector John Simon said the broker of the shipment, the same one who handled the importation of wastes from South Korea last year should be held answerable for the entry of the materials from Australia, adding the broker committed infractions.

In the same interview, Alan Cuyno, the technical manager of Holcim Phils. Inc. said what they imported was “not garbage” but “low-grade fuel.” (davaotoday.com)

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