Container ship MV Bavaria
Container ship MV Bavaria (R), a vessel hired by Canada to ship tonnes of trash back to Canada, arrives at Subic Bay International Terminal Corporation on Subic Port, north of Manila on May 30, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Manila: A cargo containing electronic and plastic waste materials will be shipped back to its point origin in Hong Kong as officials said the shipment was illegal under the laws of both territories.

“Today, we are shipping back one container van of mixed garbage consisting mostly of plastic scraps and shredded electronic parts to their source. The export of this hazardous waste from Hong Kong in the guise of ‘assorted electronic accessories’ is illegal under the laws of Hong Kong and the Philippines and the Basel Convention,” stated Bureau of Customs Port Collector John Simon of the Mindanao Container Terminal (MCT) in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental on Monday in a statement.

Simon had officiated the re-export to Hong Kong of 2.561 tons of mixed plastic waste packed in 22 sling bags that were wrongly declared as “assorted electronic accessories.” The illegal traffic waste will be returned to Hong Kong via the container ship SITC Nagoya.

The repatriation of the illegal shipment came on the heels of re-export by the Philippines to Canada of 69 containers of plastic waste that had been sent to the Port of Manila by a Canadian firm and its Filipino partner six years ago.

The plastic waste shipment, which arrived in the Philippines on 2013 and 2014 were sent back on May 31, ending a long-running disagreement between Ontario and Manila.

Although the shipment coming from Hong Kong was relatively smaller in quantity compared to that coming from Canada, it is nonetheless just as toxic. The cargo contained PCBs which are classified as electronic wastes and can poison the ground where it is stored as well as the water sources close to it, causing long-term effects on the environment and surrounding population.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, shippers had declared the cargo as “mixed plastic waste” in order to skirt regulations banning the entry of electronic wastes.

Lea Guerrero, Country Director, the environmentalist group, Greenpeace Southeast Asia — Philippines, said that the fact that such shipments were able to enter the Philippines means that the country still have regulatory gaps. She said the country needs to implement a comprehensive ban on waste shipments and ratify the Basel Ban Amendment on cross border movement of toxic wastes.

It can be recalled that after China had closed its doors to toxic wastes and adopted tighter regulations governing the entry of such cargos last year, rich countries had turned to developing countries such as the Philippines to take in their trash.