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Landfill burial for trash still gov’t option

/ 12:15 AM July 24, 2015

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Despite protests from Tarlac provincial officials and residents, an interagency task force has not swept aside its position to use a sanitary landfill in Capas town as burial site for trash illegally shipped to the country from Canada in 2013.

“The option will stay the same,” Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones, concurrent chief of the Environmental Management Bureau, said when asked about the results of a meeting presided by Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina in Manila on Wednesday.

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Leones, in a telephone interview, said the members of the task force, composed of officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Justice, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Bureau of Customs (BoC) met to assess the situation after Metro Clark Waste Management Corp. (MCWMC) heeded the request of the Tarlac provincial government to stop the dumping of Canadian trash at its landfill in Sitio Kalangitan in Capas town.

Twenty six containers of wastes were buried in Kalangitan from June 25 to July 8, while at least eight others are still parked there since they arrived on July 15, MCWMC president Rufo Colayco told the Inquirer.

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At least 15 more containers are at the Subic Bay Freeport and six others are at the Manila International Container Terminal. Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chair Roberto Garcia has demanded that the containers be removed from the port.

In a letter on July 14, Tarlac Gov. Victor Yap told Lina that Canada was not among those allowed to dump waste at the landfill. Under the provincial board’s Resolution No. 108-2003, MCWMC may only accept wastes from cities and towns outside of Tarlac, the Clark Special Economic Zone (now Clark Freeport) and Metro Manila, Board Member Marcelino Aganon Jr. said in a public hearing conducted on July 16.

The task force was not reconsidering its Nov. 10, 2014 recommendation to ship the trash back to Canada. Leones said this was not the decision reached in a bilateral negotiation by the DFA and the Embassy of Canada, and in a coordination with the secretariat of the Basel Convention that banned the importation of wastes.

The Canadian government said the importation was a “purely commercial transaction” between businessman Jim Makris and the local consignee, Chronic Plastics, based in Valenzuela City. The shipper, Zim, obtained a court-approved recovery of the containers in April, which the BoC implemented.

In partially implementing the disposal of the garbage and recovery of the containers, Leones said the BoC could be cited for contempt by a regional trial court in Manila.

Yap and Vice Gov. Enrique Cojuangco Jr. said the BoC and the DENR did not coordinate the matter with them.  Leones disputed the view of Tarlac officials that the disposal was not coordinated with them, saying the provincial and local governments had sent representatives from their environment offices to witness the disinfecting and dumping.

Leones said burying the Canadian trash in a landfill is a “viable option” because incineration is not allowed in the Philippines.

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Leones said the Customs bureau would coordinate with officials of the SBMA and local governments in Tarlac regarding the dumping. Lina, he said, would discuss the continued use of the landfill with Yap and other provincial officials.

Also on Wednesday, the EcoWaste Coalition urged DENR to “take legal action to oblige Canada to get back their reeking trash.”

Asked for comments, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said: “We will defer to BoC since it is handling the disposal.”

In a statement, Rene Pineda, EcoWaste Coalition vice president, said DENR, “as the lead agency for environmental protection… [should] stop mouthing a diplomatic argument and insist that our country is not Canada’s dump.” Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

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TAGS: Alberto Lina, Canada, Capas, Customs, EcoWaste Coalition, environment, environmental management bureau, Garbage, Jonas Leones, Landfill, Manila International Container Terminal, Ramon Paje, Roberto Garcia, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Tarlac
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