The Philippines over the weekend shipped back to South Korea tons of garbage stored in 51 container vans, officials said Monday, six months after the trash arrived in the port of Tagoloan, in southern Misamis Oriental province.
The Philippines and South Korea are signatories to the Basel Convention, an international treaty to control the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous waste, as well as prevent the transfer of waste from developed to less-developed countries.
Manila invoked the convention in negotiations completed in late December, and the waste was loaded aboard a ship bound for South Korea, Bureau of Customs port collector John Simon said.
He said Seoul had agreed to pay the U.S. $47,000 (2.5 million pesos) cost of shipping the container vans to the port of Pyeongtaek, South Korea. The South Korean government had also agreed to shoulder the expense for shipping 5,100 tons of remaining waste in Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental.
Earlier this month, Korean media reported that the country would cover the cost of returning the waste.
“This is a great environmental victory for the Filipino people and the Philippine government,” Simon told reporters.
On Sunday, activists from the environmental group EcoWaste Coalition staged a rally inside the Mindanao Container Terminal. They carried signs that read “We are not a garbage can for Korean waste,” and “Do not transfer Korean waste to the Philippines!”
“Sending the garbage back to its origin is only just, moral and lawful,” EcoWaste Coalition national coordinator Aileen Lucero said.
In a statement, Angelica Carballo Pago of Greenpeace Southeast Asia said her group hoped the “repatriation of the South Korean waste would inspire a similar action to finally address the Canadian waste dumped in the Philippines.”
About 100 container vans of garbage arrived at the port of Manila from Canada in 2013 and remain there despite appeals to the Canadian government, also a signatory of the Basel Convention.
Pago said the repatriation sent a strong signal to developed countries that the Philippines and other less-developed countries were fighting back.
Shipments arrived in July, August
The household waste stored in Tagaloan town came in two shipments, in July and August 2018, the Philippine government news agency reported in November.
The first shipment of 5,100 tons arrived on July 21 and was immediately moved to the 10-acre facility of shipper Verde Soko in Tagoloan.
The second shipment of 51 container vans loaded with 1,400 tons of household waste arrived in the second week of August and was delivered to the same facility.
The shipment caused an uproar among local government officials after neighbors started complaining of a foul smell from the facility.
Verde Soko officials had previously said that the vans contained reusable plastic waste to be recycled. The officials did not comment Monday on the shipment.
Juliette Uy, a congresswoman representing the province, said the garbage should be returned to South Korea.
“All, not just part or some, of the total garbage shipments stored at MICT (Mindanao International Container Terminal) should be returned to South Korea. All of it. There should be no gray areas in this regard,” Uy said in a post on her Facebook page.
She said the House of Representatives was scheduled to hold a public hearing to determine how the shipment made it passed the MICT in Tagoloan.
“This port is under the supervision of the Bureau of Customs. How was it able to pass through under their watch?” Uy asked.
She said the National Bureau of Investigation was asked to conduct an investigation to determine the liability of Verde Soko and possible involvement of customs officials.