President Duterte urged to assert Philippine sovereignty on Canada trash issue Illegal waste trade no different from drugs and other contraband under int’l law

Quezon City, 29 September 2016—Calling on President Duterte to officially denounce Canada’s trash exports to the Philippines, environmental group BAN Toxics today urged the President to assert Philippine sovereignty and ensure the immediate return of all waste shipments back to Canada.

The call came as a Philippine court is set to file a motion for execution for partial return of the imported trash tomorrow, 30 September 2016. The court order, while a welcome development, covers only the first shipment of 50 containers when the case was filed. This is less than half of the total 103 containers of trash (equivalent to around 2,500 tons) which were brought into the country by a Canadian importer from 2013-2014.

Additionally, the order cannot compel action from the Canadian government. Official statements from the Canadian Environment Minister insist that “the shipment was not illegal under Canada regulations.” The Canadian importing company, Chronic, Inc., and its owner, James Makris, are not facing any similar charges or fines in Canada.

“President Duterte is known for his denunciation of the historical sins of rich countries against poor countries like the Philippines,” said Anna Kapunan, campaigner for BAN Toxics. “The Canada waste issue is a clear example of bullying and abuse, violating our country’s sovereignty and dignity. President Duterte, this is the time to speak up and demand reparation!”

Last September 2015, then-Mayor Duterte spoke vehemently against the waste dumping, calling it “a derogation of our national dignity.” However, as President, Mr Duterte has not yet issued any statement or order to ensure the resolution of the matter consistent with upholding the country’s sovereignty.

Environmental groups hope that the filing of the motion for execution on the return of the waste will trigger strong support by the President himself to ensure Canada takes back all its trash and pay for all damages it caused as well as costs owed to the Bureau of Customs.

Tomorrow’s court order is a local decision with local jurisdiction, but a single order from the President can set things straight in the international arena via the Basel Convention, a global agreement to prevent waste trade to which both Canada and the Philippines are parties.

As President, Mr Duterte only needs to instruct his administration to file a notice of illegal waste trade with the Basel Convention Secretariat. The Secretariat will then notify Canada that a member country to the Basel Convention has cited or experienced dumping of toxic, hazardous and other wastes in its territory originating from Canada. The Basel Convention procedures will force the Canadian government to comply with obligations under the treaty, even if the waste exporter is a private company.

“President Duterte needs to champion the return of the waste with zeal,” said Kapunan. “Illegal dumping of wastes are no different from illegal substances such as drugs and other contraband under international law. In fact, the Basel Convention considers illegal dumping of toxic and other wastes, including household wastes, as an international crime. These types of crime are at the same level of child trafficking, drug smuggling and endangered species trade.”

“More importantly, this is a crime against the Filipino people. It is outrageous that our country is made into a dumping ground while Vancouver, the Canadian city where the garbage shipment originated, is hailed as one of the top three cleanest cities in the world. The President should be leading the charge in strongly defending our rights as a sovereign nation,” she added.