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A Toxics-Free Future

PH petition reminds Canada leader Trudeau: Take back trash

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — What happened to your “Canadian solution” Mr. Prime Minister?

More than a thousand Filipinos raised this question to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a petition on Monday to resolve an almost four-year-old problem created by the illegal importation of trash from Canada.

The garbage was discovered sealed in 103 container vans that were abandoned in Manila, transferred to the Subic Bay Freeport and dumped in Tarlac province.

The 1,375 petitioners told Trudeau: “When you visited our country last November 2015 for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, we expected you to at least announce that Canada would take responsibility for its garbage. You disappointed us when you vaguely stated that a ‘Canadian solution’ is being developed and made no firm declaration [that you would] re-import your garbage.”

The petition was sent by email to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Canadian Embassy in Makati City, Manny Calonzo, public information head of EcoWaste Coalition, said.

The petitioners signed the appeal during a zero-waste fair organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm Asia and Mother Earth Foundation on Jan. 30-31 at Rizal Park in Manila.

They informed Trudeau that government, church, labor and environmental leaders have “spoken against the shameless dumping scandal, emphasizing in clear and strong terms that the Philippines is not a global landfill and that Canada has no option but to take its garbage back.”

“We would never allow our country to be treated as Canada’s dumpsite,” they said.

The garbage’s importer, identified as Jim Makris, declared the shipment as recyclable scrap. Government inspectors, however, discovered that the shipment contained trash that could not be recycled.

The petition urged Trudeau “to get back the trash and dispose of this properly in Canada, and pay the Philippine government for expenses in storing it.”

Trudeau, they said, should “fix the legal loopholes that allowed the unlawful export of Canadian waste to the Philippines.”

The petitioners expressed hope Trudeau would be different from former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who they described to be “blind and deaf to our plea for environmental justice.”

In July 2015, the Basel Action Network (BAN) based in Seattle, Washington, requested the secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal to file a case against Canada after the Bureau of Customs (BOC) dumped the contents of 26 container vans in a private sanitary landfill in Capas, Tarlac.

Jim Puckett, BAN executive director, said Canada “well knows that in accordance with Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, ratified by Canada, national legislation, or the lack thereof, cannot be used as an excuse not to exercise treaty obligations.”

BAN estimated that the trash left idle for 757 days since 2013 had cost the Philippine government P240 million ($4.7 million) as of July 22, 2015.

BAN reached the amount by multiplying 103 container vans and number of days with the demurrage fee of P2,000 per day and space rental rate of P1,080 per day. The BOC did not make an official confirmation of the expenses.  SFM