Environment group hails decision to return Sokor waste

THE EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental health and justice group, has welcomed the agreement reached by the governments of the Philippines and South Korea toward the repatriation of 5,177 tons of traffic waste originating from the latter.

Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the group, said in a statement that they laud the firm stand of customs and environmental officials in Northern Mindanao to have the wastes shipped back despite South Korea's proposal to incinerate the wastes in a landfill in the Philippines instead of sending it back.

“We laud the firm stance of customs and environmental officials in the region to have the illegal traffic waste re-exported to its source in South Korea," she said.

“We also laud them for rejecting outright the proposal from the Korean side to landfill or incinerate the illegal traffic waste from South Korea in the Philippines,” she added.

Both the panels from Philippines and South Korea agreed to ship the wastes on June 30.

At a bilateral meeting held June 13, in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental and chaired by Port Collector John Simon, government officials from the two countries agreed to return the waste, which is part of the illegal waste cargoes falsely declared as "plastic synthetic flakes" with a total combined weight of 6,500 tons, that arrived in Northern Mindanao in July and October 2018.

The meeting drew over 40 attendees led by Representative Juliette Uy of the Second District of Misamis Oriental and included observers from the private sector and the civil society represented by the EcoWaste Coalition.

Meeting agenda

As stated in the minutes of the meeting, “the government of the Philippines desires the re-exportation to be conducted in compliance to the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to immediately remove foreign waste as soon as possible.”

Under the Basel Convention, the obligation of the State of export to manage the illegal traffic waste “in an environmentally sound manner may not under any circumstances be transferred to the State of import or transit.”

Leading the government panel in the said meeting were Uy, Provincial Board Member Gerardo Sabal III, District Collector Floro Calixihan Jr., Port Collector John Simon and Environmental Management Bureau-Region 10 legal chief Abbas Lao.

During the meeting, the Korean government led by Mr. Young –Dae Jung, Director General of the Ministry of Environment, offered three options for dealing with the wastes.

As cited in the minutes, these options are: “1) retrieving the waste back to Korea with the precondition that the Philippines covers all costs concerning repacking, containerizing, transporting the waste to the port, and clearing the customs; 2) establishing an incineration facility by Korea in the Philippines; and 3) landfilling or incinerating the waste within the Philippines first, then after that paying the treatment cost.”

Because this incident was caused by an illegal exporter in South Korea and an illegal importer in the Philippines, both governments agreed to share responsibility in addressing the matter.

The Philippine government agreed to “bear the whole responsibilities concerning the repacking, containerizing, transporting the waste from the importer’s premises to the port, and clearing the customs, including demurrage charges at the Philippine port.”

The South Korean government agreed to “start the shipping procedure from the port of Tagoloan to South Korea as soon as possible.”

“Both parties understood that in Korea it might take some time to secure and allocate the budget for shipping,” according to the minutes.

Shipment cost

Meanwhile, Sabal clarified the importer of the shipment Verde Soko will shoulder the repacking of the wastes and the hauling from its facility to the port. He said the process would cost about P7.5 million.

"Nagpasalig ang Verde Soko nga pangitaan paagi nga mapatrabaho ang pag-repack. Nangita nami company nga maoy mag-repack and mohakot sa basura paingon sa pantalan," Sabal said.

(Verde Soko promised that they would find ways to to repack the wastes, we are also looking on companies that could repack and carry the bulk going to the port)

On the other hand, he said the South Korean government will shoulder the shipping cost amounting to about P10 million.

"For the next two weeks, the imported garbage consignee Verde Soko and a logistics firm will undertake the rebagging and transport of the garbage from Phividec to the port in shipping containers," Uy said in a press statement.

"For their part, the South Korean side will 'find and provide" an available vessel while Philippine officials will inform them of when at least 20 containerized garbage is ready for shipping back to South Korea," she continued.

Uy said she asked the South Korean representative Dae Jung to coordinate with the Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice on the conduct of an investigation into the shipment and the possible filing of criminal charges against those involved.

"Pasalamat mi sa Korean government kay ilang gipadala is ang director general sa Ministry of Environment maong naay decison making nahitabo," Sabal added.

(We are thankful to he Korean government that they sent the director general of the Ministry of Environment, that's why we have come up with a final decision)

The bulk wastes, which the authorities determined as “misdeclared, heterogenous and injurious to public health,” have been sitting at the premises of Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corp., the consignee, inside the Phividec Industrial Estate in Sitio Buguac, Barangay Santa Cruz, Tagoloan since July 2018.

According to the re-exportation order issued by the Bureau of Customs-Region 10 last December 2018, “the shipment was found to be heterogenous and contained household hazardous waste constituting a violation under Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order 2013-22.” As per this regulation, “no importation of heterogenous and unsorted plastic materials shall be allowed.

The first batch of the illegal waste shipment consisting of nearly 1,400 tons of containerized wastes was re-exported to South Korea on January 13 this year.


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