“And all abominations, shun!” - Surah Al-Muddaththir, 5


THERE might be a grain of “progress” in Mindanao’s industries, especially when manufacturing plants are using garbage for power generation, or whatever purposes that can curb wastes to be dumped and cause pollution.

This is probably what Holcim Philippines Inc. was trying to say in its earlier statement, when the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Northern Mindanao, found about nine container vans, weighing 40 metric tons, that have shredded waste materials in it. Holcim is the consignee of that shipment that come from Australia, and they refer to it as “Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF).”

But BOC and EMB saw it otherwise, these containers carry garbage, plain and simple, and based on their standard guidebooks from laws and policies, these are but “municipal wastes,” common trash. And that also means the shipment violated some laws not only in relation to environmental protection, but also Customs laws because of an alleged “misdeclaration.”

Earlier this year, part of the garbage were shipped back to South Korea, which was consigned by Verde SoKo, a Filipino firm that said to process these trash to alternative fuel or materials. There were about 5,000 tons of these raw materials that have yet to be shipped back.

This same premise could not be said for another shipment of garbage that came from Hong Kong, as reported by environmental group, EcoWaste Coalition, the shipment that came from Hong Kong arrived at the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental on January 2, 2019 on board SITC Fujian. The cargo was shipped by Hin Yuen Tech. Env. Limited and was consigned to Crowd Win Industrial Limited.

The common denominators in the garbage that come from South Korea, Australia, and Hong Kong, are that these were allegedly “misdeclared” shipments, according to BOC, and these batches of cargo are docked to MICT. How many more garbage there are in that port? And why it was only detected late? For Australia and Hong Kong shipments, the information was released to the public was on May 22 (between that week).

In addition, intriguing questions would then be: how many garbage being shipped prior to this, without being detected? And why it was only noticed just now?

And then, here’s quite an eye-opener: the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), based on the statement of Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, is planning to establish processing hubs, for possible production of PEF in the country so that these PEF-dependent producers, like cement factories, can buy from local sources instead of sourcing it abroad.

Verde SoKo could qualify for this PEF producer, had it not been embroiled in controversy and Congressional inquiry, and even then, there have been many Filipino startups that have been converting garbage as reusable materials, and likely can also produce alternative fuel like PEF.

The takeaway? The Philippines is one of the top producers of ocean pollutants in the world because of the people’s disregard to solid waste management, and while we’re dumped by our own trash, some industrial plants order foreign garbage converted as PEF for their operations. These PEF-dependent industries get the materials overseas because there are no, or not enough, PEF-producing entities that can address the demand.