PAMPANGA

Pena: DENR officials cleared in Canada waste fiasco

E-ssue

REMEMBER the garbage imported from Canada that were labeled as recyclable plastic but turned out to be mixed waste with hazardous content? It took several years for the waste to be finally returned to Canada after years of negotiations.

Around 100 containers of this "recyclable waste" were shipped in batches from Canada to the Philippines from 2013 to 2014 by the Canadian company Chronic Plastics Inc. After six years, the remaining 69 containers were shipped back to Canada on May 31, 2019.

But that’s not the end of the story. The process of prosecuting those responsible for the fiasco is still going on. The importers and consignees were charged criminally at the Manila RTC. Some officials of the Bureau of Customs and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) were also charged.

It’s surprising that EMB and DENR officials were included in the charge. One of those is my good friend Geri Geronimo Sañez, the Chief of the Hazardous Waste Section of the EMB. I personally know this guy and can vouch for his dedication to his work and very strict enforcement of RA 6969, the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990.

The DENR officials, including Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuña, were charged for being "remiss in their duties to strictly examine the application, as to the completeness of the required documents."

Last Monday morning, news came out that the charges against the DENR and EMB officials were dismissed for insufficiency of evidence. On the other hand, the Department of Justice panel of prosecutors found probable cause to indict Bureau of Customs (BOC) examiners. Hopefully, the truth will come out during the trial.

I hope too that this Canada incident will be the last. With plastic waste coming out of the ears of developed countries due to the import ban imposed by China on some plastic waste, Asian countries are the target destinations of unwanted waste.

Last year, Malaysia returned 150 containers of plastic waste to 13 countries from which they were illegally imported including the United States, United Kingdom, France and Canada.

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Congratulations are in order to an inter-agency task force named Philippine Operation Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade (POGI) for winning the prestigious Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards given by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The group was recognized by the United Nations for its efforts in halting illegal wildlife trafficking and trade in the country. By the way, last Wednesday, March 3, was World Wildlife Day.

The POGI, chaired by DENR Undersecretary Atty. Ernesto D. Adobo. Jr., is a composite team of wildlife enforcers from various agencies, including DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Bureau of Customs, and DENR-National Capital Region.


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