TAGOLOAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 13 January) — After months of negotiations between the Philippines and South Korea, 51 container vans containing 1,400 tons (1.27 million kilos) of garbage were loaded Sunday on a cargo ship for return to their port of origin in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.
John Simon, Bureau of Customs port collector said that in accordance with the Basel Convention, the container vans are to be shipped back to South Korea aboard M/V Kalliroe of Maerks Shipping at the expense of the South Korean government.
The ship will depart for South Korea on Monday.
The Philippines and South Korea are signatories to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, more popularly referred to as the Basel Convention, designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries.
Simon said the return of the household waste to South Korea was a result of series of meetings that culminated in Cagayan de Oro on Dec. 26 and 27.
He said the South Korean government agreed to shoulder the US$ 47,000 cost of shipping the container vans to the port of Pyeongtek.
Simon said the South Korean government also agreed to shoulder the shipping costs of the remaining 5,100 tons (4.63 million kilos) of waste in Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental.
“Great environmental victory”
“This is a great environmental victory for the Filipino people and the Philippine government,” Simon said.
Officials from the Bureau of Customs and the local government units of Misamis Oriental witnessed the loading of container vans to the M/V Kalliroe at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan town.
Activists from the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental NGO, staged a rally inside the terminal. “We are not a garbage can for Korean waste” and “Do not transfer Korean waste to the Philippines!,” their placards read.
“Sending the garbage back to its origin is only just, moral and lawful,” EcoWaste Coalition national coordinator Aileen Lucero said.
Angelica Carballo Pago of Greenpeace Southeast Asia in a statement expressed hope that the repatriation of the South Korean waste “would inspire a similar action to finally address the Canadian waste dumped in the Philippines.”
Pago said the repatriation sends a strong signal to developed countries that less developed countries or LDCs like the Philippines are fighting back.
Some 100 container vans of garbage arrived at the port of Manila from Canada last 2013 and remained there despite appeals to the Canadian government, also a signatory to the Basel Convention.
The household waste in Tagoloan town came in two shipments in July and August last year.
The first shipment of 5,100 tons arrived last July 21 and was immediately sent to the four-hectare facility of the shipper, Verde Soko, in Sitio Buguac, Barangay Santa Cruz in Tagoloan.
The second shipment of 51 container vans loaded with 1,400 tons arrived in the second week of August last year and was also brought to the same facility.
The shipment caused an uproar among local government officials as residents of Sitio Buguac started complaining of foul smell from the facility.
Officials from Verde Soko, a Cebu-based firm, claimed the shipment was reusable plastic for use in their recycling factory in Sitio Buguac.
But lawyer Abbas Lao of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Northern Mindanao said their findings indicate that the shipment is hazardous and pose major health risks to the villagers of Sitio Buguac.
Lao said Verde Soko also had no import permits for the shipment.
Rep. Juliet Uy of the second district of Misamis Oriental, said the House of Representatives is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on why and how the shipment was able to pass through the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan.
“This port is under the supervision of the Bureau of Customs. How was it able to pass through under their watch,” Uy said.
She said the National Bureau of Investigation is conducting an investigation to determine the criminal liability of Verde Soko and possible involvement of BOC officials.
Simon said shipping back to Korea the 5,100 tons of household waste now in the Verde Soko facility would be the next step.
“The South Korean government has agreed to put the waste back in bags and containers before shipping it back,” Simon said.
He said the timetable would be a month and the operations will be monitored by the local government of Tagoloan. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)