Scientist group AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People denounces the smuggling of hazardous and toxic wastes in the country from South Korea and the Philippine government’s inaction in holding the former accountable.
It was reported that about one thousand two hundred (1,200) metric tons of garbage was illegally imported to a Philippine port through the South Korean company Verde Soko II Industrial Corporation. This was in addition to the five thousand one hundred (5,100) metric tons received by the Mindanao Container Terminal in Misamis Oriental on July 21. The Verde Soko II has a 4.5 hectare waste recycling facility within the Phividec Industrial Estate in the municipality of Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, but it is not accredited to import recyclable materials, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“South Korea must recognize the historical relations of South Korea and the Philippines when the Republic of Korea was declared as sovereign state on March 3, 1949. The Philippines was the fifth state to recognize the Republic of Korea and the first ASEAN country to establish relations with South Korea. Hence, with regard to the unwanted wastes, we expect that South Korea will respect the Philippine environmental policies on hazardous and toxic wastes,” said Feny Cosico, secretary general of the scientist group.
According to the report entitled “Analysis of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Other Wastes in Asia”, the Philippines has been importing hazardous wastes from Korea every year. From 2001 to 2005, South Korea was the second biggest exporter of used electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) in the country, according to the National Statistics Office.
In one of South Korea’s weekly news magazine, Hankyoreh, it was reported that the country has exported 4,397 metric tons (equivalent to that of 2,200 open elf trucks) of plastic waste to the Philippines in 2017 based on the report of the Korean Customs.
“It is common knowledge that hazardous and toxic wastes are irreversibly destructive and lethal to various ecosystems. Plastics threaten animal life, especially those living in the oceans. The manufacture of plastics from fossil fuels also contribute to global warming. Meanwhile, EEE wastes such as used batteries contain corrosive chemicals and heavy metals that can leach into the soil, which could pollute groundwater systems and may eventually find their way into our farms, animals, and sources of drinking water. Contamination from disposable diapers may also find its way to the water table,” Cosico explained.
Lead is a known carcinogen which causes birth defects, neurological, and developmental damage to children. Mercury is highly toxic in vapor form and may cause severe respiratory damage if inhaled.
According to Cosico, “The recently signed agreements of the Philippines and South Korea on trade, energy, transportation and scientific and technological cooperation must not undermine the country’s national security, environment, and public health. Both the Philippines and South Korea are signatories of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal that was adopted in 1989 which obligates member countries to be responsible in carrying out the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes in its destination.”
In June of this year, the Philippines and South Korea signed five bilateral agreements to “strengthen ties between the two states”.
“If South Korea is sincere in its economic partnership with the Philippines, it must take action by immediately taking back their hazardous wastes from the country. The company facilitating the smuggling of the tons of wastes should be held liable for endangering the lives of the Filipino people and posing a great risk to the environment. More importantly, the Philippine government should not forget its obligations in protecting and enhancing the constitutional right of Filipino citizens to a ‘balanced and healthful environment’ by crafting stricter regulatory policies for the management of hazardous and toxic wastes and imposing stronger sanctions on non-complying enterprises,” she ended.###