Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has directed Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to look into the creation of a special strike team within the agency to guard against the entry of waste materials that other countries are attempting to dump in the Philippines.
Dominguez issued the directive during a recent Department of Finance (DOF) Executive Committee (Execom) meeting after Guerrero reported that he had called on his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to strengthen the law enforcement capabilities of the organization’s member-states not only in the war against drug trafficking, but also in preventing the region from being a dumping ground for hazardous materials such as garbage of other countries.
Guerrero said his fellow customs officials from the ASEAN member-states reacted positively to his proposal.
In response, Dominguez said that “it’s time we put up something like an environmental unit in the Customs (bureau) to really act on this garbage issue.”
Guerrero also reported to Dominguez that other ASEAN member-states like Malaysia have thanked the Philippines during the 28thmeeting of the ASEAN Directors-General of Customs held at the Lao Republic for setting the example in the region when President Duterte stood pat in his decision to compel Canada to immediately repatriate 69 containers of trash that were dumped in Manila six years ago.
After Canada failed to meet the original May 15 deadline set by President Duterte for the return of the imported wastes, the government recalled its ambassador and consuls to Canada to demonstrate its “diminished diplomatic relations” with the North American country.
This action prompted Canada to move its earlier June 30 commitment in repatriating the waste to the Philippines’ revised May 30 deadline.
Other ASEAN countries like Malaysia and Cambodia are also working to have wastes dumped in their countries returned to Canada.
“Malaysia was thanking the Philippines for setting the example, this problem about the wastes, because now it has come to the consciousness of the international community, this garbage problem,” Guerrero said during the Execom meeting.
Guerrero said that as a result of President Duterte’s tough stand on the issue, he has received reports that plans to have other shipments of wastes transported to the country have now been scuttled.
Dominguez said the strike team that he wants at the BOC will be akin to a special environmental strike force team that will be activated to guard the entry of hazardous materials in the country.
Beating the deadline set by the government, the 69 containers of waste from Canada mislabeled by a private importer as recyclable materials and dumped in the Philippines six years ago were finally shipped out of the country last May 31.
The South Korean government has also committed to help ship back to its country some 5,176 metric tons (MT) of waste materials illegally imported here last year and currently stored at the PHIVIDEC Industrial Authority premises in Misamis Oriental.