MANILA — Filipino activists gathered at the International Peoples’ Mining Conference are not just talking about mining abuses by Canadian mining companies, they also want Canadians to know that Canada is illegally dumping its waste in their country.
About 50 container vans of mixed waste from Canada was discovered in Manila’s port in June 2013. More container vans of waste have since been discovered in the ports of Manila and scenic Subic as well as near a new landfill site in Central Luzon, just north of the capital. The landfill has displaced people.
“It’s an environmental justice issue,” says Francisco Dangla III, Secretary-General of BAYAN in Central Luzon. “Canadian companies are extracting raw resources from our country and Canada is dumping its waste.”
Sister Stella Matutina is from the natural resource-rich island of Mindanao that has attracted several multinational mining companies like Canadian-based TVI, which is connected to the murders of activists, kidnappings, illegal detentions, torture, threats, displacement and loss of livelihoods.
“Mindanao is not for you foreigners!” declared Matutina to conference participants. “You have taken our gold and now you give us your garbage!”
“There’s money in garbage. Landfills are needed but having a private corporation managing the waste means that waste is connected to profit. More garbage, more profit,” says Dangla.
Twenty-seven of the 50 container vans of the waste that was sitting in the Manila port was suddenly dumped in the Philippines between June 25 and July 8. The activists call the dumping illegal because it failed to have a court order.
Local environmental and health groups as well as international groups that work on enforcing the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal denounced the dumping. Both Canada and the Philippines are signatories to the Basel Convention that aims to prevent the dumping of hazardous materials from developed nations to less developed ones.
Charges have been filed against the local importer in the Philippines but no charges have been laid against the Canadian exporter.
BAN Toxics, Basel Action Network (BAN) and Greenpeace Philippines are condemning the Canadian government for “callous disregard of international law.”
“We had warned President Aquino about the consequences of letting Canada push us around by agreeing to bury their first illegal shipment on Philippine soil. How long will the Philippines be willing to submit to what is nothing less than waste colonialism?” said Richard Gutierrez, executive director of BT in a statement on May 22.
Basel Convention, Annex II stipulates that household waste cannot be exported to any country without prior notification and consent. Activists say that Canada did not seek nor receive such consent. They say that the Convention instructs Canada to take back the waste and criminally prosecute the exporter.
The waste is being exported to the Philippines by Canadian company Chronics Inc. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department is claiming that it cannot legally force the shipper of the waste to return its waste to Canada. BAN disagrees and feels that this is a clear case of non-compliance with the Basel Convention. BAN plans to file a complaint with the Basel Secretariat.
The Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources has issued waste dumping permits but the people and local government of Central Luzon oppose its dumping. Besides the Basel Convention, activists say the importing of waste violates several local laws such as those concerning recyclable materials that contain hazardous substances.
According to a customs official who wishes to remain unnamed, one batch of waste that arrived from Canada was wrongly declared as plastic recyclables when it was mixed household waste.
The dumping of the waste has been condemned in street protests and recently in May before the 12th Conference of the Parties of the Basel Convention in Geneva.
More than 38,000 people have signed a petition asking the Canadian government to take back the garbage. The petition states: “Canada, pick up your garbage! Philippines is not your trash can!”