The international Basel Action Network (BAN) based in Seattle, and Ban Toxics based in the Philippines have submitted a formal letter requesting the Secretariat of the Basel Convention to invoke formal proceedings on the matter of Canada’s unwillingness to perform its Basel Convention obligations after Canada allowed the dumping of more than 100 containers of Canadian household waste on the territory of the Philippines.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, civil society groups, and congressmen in the Philippines have all asked Canada to take back its waste for more than a year now. But so far Canada has refused, and some of the wastes have already been buried in a landfill in the Philippines.
According to Jim Makris, the owner of the Ontario based firm responsible for the export, the material was waste containing plastics obtained from a Vancouver based recycling company. Philippine government experts have stated after examination, that the wastes in fact were mixed household wastes, listed in Annex II of the Basel Convention.
Philippine officials opens one of over 100 containers of household garbage sent by Canadian firm to the Philippines in 2014.
BAN and Ban Toxics, in their letter to Basel Convention Executive Secretary Dr. Rolph Payet, assert that as household wastes are a Basel Convention Annex II waste, Canada is bound to strictly control its export. Canada, however, has maintained that its domestic laws do not control household waste. This would indicate a failure on the part of Canada to properly transpose its international treaty obligations into domestic law. Under the rules of the Vienna Convention, failure to properly transpose treaty obligations into domestic law cannot be used as an excuse to not fulfill those obligations.
“Canada has admitted to us, that it has failed to properly implement the Basel Convention. This means that they are not in compliance and that has resulted in significant economic and potential environmental harm to the Philippines,” said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network. “We have asked them on several occasions to take the responsibility required of them under the law and they have simply refused.”
As a party to the Basel Convention, illegal traffic such as this must be prosecuted by Canada as a criminal act and furthermore the waste should be returned by Canada to its territory unless it is impracticable to do so.
The Basel Convention has adopted an implementation and compliance mechanism and a special committee (ICC) for handling matters of non-compliance. Cases can only be brought to the ICC either by the country out of compliance (Canada), an impacted country (Philippines) or by the Secretariat. The letter from the environmental groups asserts that the Secretariat is well within its rights to take this matter to the ICC with a view to assisting Canada and other nations to properly implement the Convention for household wastes.
“We know that the Philippines government have been pressured by Canada not to put up a fuss,” said Ban Toxics Executive Director Richard Gutierrez. “So our government is not going to file a non-compliance brief. Cases like this require the Secretariat to act. If this gross non-compliance is simply swept under the carpet, the Basel Convention and indeed all international law becomes but a sad joke. We have faith that the Secretariat will do the right thing and trigger this case.”
Click here to read the letter to the Basel Convention Secretariat.
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