"We're not someone else's dumping ground. The Philippines should assert its dignity and co-equal standing as a sovereign state in the community of nations. We should not be seen as a recipient, officially or unofficially, of waste material coming from other countries."
Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III made the statement on Sunday after the Philippine government said that it will return to South Korea some 6,500 tons of waste that were dumped in Mindanao and tagged as originating from the East Asian country.
The South Korean government has committed to take back the trash after an agreement was reached at a bilateral meeting between Filipino and Korean authorities last Dec. 27 and 28.
According to officials of the Mindanao International Container Port, the waste materials will commence their return trip to South Korea on January 9.
An initial 5,100 tons of garbage arrived at the Mindanao port in Misamis Oriental province in July last year. More waste in 51 additional containers was shipped in October and transferred to a local consignee's compound in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.
A subsequent inspection revealed that the shipment contained used dextrose tubes, soiled diapers, batteries, bulbs, and electronic equipment.
The consignee, Verde Soko Industrial Corporation, had falsely reported that the container vans carried soft plastic and not garbage, claiming that the plastics were raw materials meant for furniture reprocessing.
"We are thankful to the South Korean government for its commitment to resolve this matter and take back the misdeclared shipment. At the same time, it's very urgent that we direct our Bureau of Customs and related agencies to file the appropriate charges against those responsible for bringing in foreign trash through an illegal misdeclaration of cargo."
"Let's ensure that this brazen act is not tolerated and in fact punished to the fullest extent of the law, particularly our Tariff and Customs Code and possibly the Toxic Substance and Hazardous Wastes and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990," Pimentel stressed.
The senator from Mindanao added that the repeated dumping of foreign trash was an affront to the country's dignity.
"If foreign-based entities and even foreign governments see and treat the Philippines as a final destination for their unwanted waste material, that speaks volumes of the way we are seen abroad. This should not be tolerated."
The legislator likewise said he will seek an update on waste materials from Canada that were "dumped" in the country way back in 2013.
"As far as I'm aware, as of January 2018, the matter has yet to be resolved. The Canadian Prime Minister promised to resolve the matter when he went here for the 31st ASEAN Summit in November 2017. There's been no follow through ever since. We need immediate and concrete action on this," Pimentel noted.
Photo from GMA News Online