DENR: Return of Korean toxic waste may take time

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is eyeing to take legal action against the “importers” of purportedly recyclable materials, which turned out to be mixed garbage containing hazardous wastes from South Korea.

DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Unit Concerns Benny D. Antiporda said he has ordered an immediate “case buildup” against those behind the importation, even as he vowed to immediately send back the shipment back to its country of origin.

The supposed importer of the hazardous waste, Antiporda revealed, has no permit to import but nevertheless managed to bring in tons of wastes in the guise of bringing in recyclable plastic materials through the country’s port.

“Of course we will file appropriate cases against those involved in the importation, but our immediate concern is to return the shipment back to Korea. If we can do it now, then why wait?” Antiporda said, even as he admitted that it may take time for the “return-to-sender” demand of environmental groups, as well as lawmakers, to happen.

“What we want to ask the importer is what do they plan to do with those hazardous wastes?  Do they plan to dump it just anywhere?” he asked.

Antiporda said the case buildup will be made after they identify those behind the company that supposedly caused the shipment.  “We will investigate if there are Koreans involved in this, or if there are Korean principals involved,” Antiporda said.

“For the moment, our utmost concern is the health risks [involved] and the effect to our  environment,” Antiporda said, noting that some of the garbage was just lying at a private compound, a waste recycling facility, exposed to the elements.

“We want to avoid leachate, eventually contaminating our environment,” he said.

“This is an abuse of the hospitality of the Filipino people. We welcome them here to do business and, yet, here they are, dumping their toxic wastes in our country.  The Philippines is not a garbage dump,” Antiporda, also deputy spokesman of Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, said.

Returning the imported waste to South Korea will compel close coordination by the DENR with concerned government agencies such as the Department of Health, Department of Foreign Affairs, Bureau of Customs and the Government of Korea.

The garbage shipment containing more than 1,000 bales at the Mindanao International Container Terminal in Misamis Oriental province were found to contain hazardous wastes.

More of such similar containers are currently on hold by the BOC, Antiporda said.

Based on the initial investigation by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), the shipment was for “plastic synthetic flakes.”

However, upon close examination or waste characterization and analysis, the bales were later found to contain assorted garbage, including toxic materials such as used dextrose tubes, used diapers, batteries, bulbs, and electronic equipment.

Plastic synthetic flakes are recyclable materials which are allowed for importation in the Philippines, Antiporda said.

“My guess is that they plan to segregate the garbage here in the Philippines. Still, it is illegal to import toxic wastes,” he said.

According to Antiporda, the DENR will insist on the Basel Convention of 1989.

More known as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, the Basel Convention is an international treaty designed to reduce the movement of hazardous waste between nations, specifically to prevent the transfer of hazardous waste from developed countries to less developed countries.

“Definitely, the importer of the shipment should shoulder the cost of returning them back,” Antiporda  said.

He said the EMB is now coordinating with concerned Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials to identify the buyers and the sellers of the imported toxic wastes.

The shipment was consigned to South Korean company Verde Soko II Industrial Corp., which operates a 4.5-hectare waste recycling facility within the Phividec Industrial Estate in Tagoloan town.

Containing about 5,100 tons of garbage, the shipment arrived at the MCT on board MV Affluent Ocean last July 21.

Upon verification with the EMB, the shipment was not covered by any DENR-issued importation clearance. The consignee, Verde Soko, is not even registered as an importer of recyclable materials.

Under the DENR policy, registered importers are required to secure the necessary import clearances from the DENR at least 30 days before the actual importation.