PHILIPPINE environmentalists welcomed the Bureau of Customs assurance that the toxic Korean garbage will be out of the country come New Year, it was learned yesterday.
BoC spokesperson Atty. Erastus Sandino Austria gave the assurance on Wednesday as he spoke before the protesting members of EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace in front of the bureau’s main office in Port Area, Manila. He said all necessary steps are being taken to resolve the illegal garbage imports from South Korea.
“Message heard, loud and clear,” Austria, referring to the groups non-violent action at the Port Area in Manila, said.
EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace are pushing for the speedy repatriation of the misdeclared garbage as demanded by the provincial government of Misamis Oriental, the municipal government of Togoloan, and pro-environment groups.
“On behalf of the BOC, we can say we can send the garbage out of the country before the end of the year. Ang isyu na lang kasi dito ay logistics (the only issue here is logistics),” said Austria.
He added that the BoC, through the Collection District of Cagayan de Oro, had already initiated talks with the government of South Korea through its Embassy to fast track the re-export of the waste shipments to Pyeongtaek City.
“We laud Atty. Austria for accepting our invitation for him to address our assembly, and for confirming that efforts are underway to get the Korean garbage shipped back to where it should be. However, we seek a specific date for the re-export of garbage to Korea. The overstaying garbage from Canada provides a compelling reason why a defined date should be set and adhered to,” EcoWaste’s Aileen Lucero said.
For their part, Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines Campaigner Abigail Aguilar said “we hope that the re-export will not be stalled by bureaucratic excuses. The BOC must exercise its mandate and be on top of this issue. It is one thing to recognize the Filipino people’s clamor to return the South Korean waste back to its origin, but Filipinos need to be assured, with concrete actions, that it is actually done this year.”
“By the time any probe is conducted by the House of Representatives or the Senate, we hope the illegal garbage shipments would already be out of the Philippines and the places where these were dumped safely cleaned up,” Lucero added.
To date, Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, Nancy Binay and Grace Poe have filed separate resolutions calling for an inquiry on the matter in aid of legislation. Iligan City Representative Fredrick Siao has likewise proposed a Congressional inquiry.
In their letter to BOC Commissioner Rey Guerrero, the EcoWaste Coalition sought his commitment to get the Korean garbage out of the Philippine territory before Christmas and not beyond December 31.
“BOC’s rapid action will send a clear and unequivocal signal to waste traffickers that the Philippines is taking strong action against illegal waste export to protect public health and the environment, and uphold the national dignity and sovereignty,” the groups pointed out.
Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition urged Commissioner Guerrero and the BOC to:
1. Expedite the process of re-shipping the Korean garbage to its origin as a topmost priority.
2. Hold customs officers liable for the uploading of the Korean garbage even without importation clearance.
3. Blacklist the shipper and charge the consignee for the illegal entry of the Korean garbage.
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