DENR exec faces raps over trash from Canada
The Office of the Ombudsman has filed criminal charges for graft against Environment Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuna in connection with the importation of trash from Canada in 2013.
In a statement, the Ombudsman said it was charging Cuna, as former Environment Management Bureau (EMB) chief, for the alleged mishandling of imported shipping containers that were filled with trash.
“It must be emphasized that it is the mission of the EMB to protect, restore and enhance environmental quality toward good public health, environmental integrity and economic viability. It is also mandated to strictly implement environmental laws and restrict or prohibit the importation, manufacture, processing, sale, distribution, use and disposal of chemical substances and mixtures that present unreasonable risk and/or injury to health or the environment,” the Ombudsman said.
Cuna is the current DENR undersecretary for field operations.
The case stemmed from the discovery of imported container vans, which were shipped into the country in July and August 2013, which after opening, turned out to contain garbage.
Cleared despite violation
Investigation revealed that Cuna allowed Chronic Plastics Inc., a Canadian-based company, to export to the Philippines several shipments of container vans, declared as plastic scrap materials without securing import entries.
According to the Ombudsman, Cuna was found to have issued six importation clearances to the company despite an existing notice of violation issued against it for importing “heterogeneous and assorted plastic materials.”
No longer recyclable
“Upon closer scrutiny of documents, investigators found that Cuna, as then EMB director, issued a registry certificate for the importation of recyclable materials containing hazardous substances dated June 19, 2013, despite the lack of details in the importer’s registry sheet,” the Ombudsman said.
The shipments were subsequently declared as abandoned and upon further inspection, the EMB also found that the garbage could no longer be recycled and were thus declared illegal.
Graft investigators questioned why Cuna approved Chronic Plastics’ importation despite its failure to provide vital information in its import application.
“(The company’s) failure to comply with the rules is apparent on the face of the application. However, despite this, respondent Cuna still approved Chronic Plastics’ application for registration,” the Ombudsman said.
In a parallel administrative case, the Ombudsman found Cuna liable for simple misconduct and ordered him suspended without pay for three months.
The Ombudsman directed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to implement the suspension order against Cuna.
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