Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Groups Ask PH Gov’t to Bring Canadian Case to Basel Secretariat

Wazzup Pilipinas!

After the announcement from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that it will lodge a diplomatic protest with the Canadian government over the illegal waste shipment they sent to the Philippines, environmental watchdogs Basel Action Network (BAN) and BAN Toxics (BT) today called on the DFA and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to alert the Implementation and Compliance Committee (ICC) at the Basel Convention regarding Canada’s negligence to the treaty.

The Terms of Reference of the Mechanism for Promoting Implementation and Compliance provides that a “Party that has concerns or is affected by a failure to comply with and/or implement the Convention’s obligations” may submit these concerns to the ICC. BAN and BT are asking the Philippines to not just lodge a protest but to tell Canada that they are taking the case to the ICC if Canada continues its disregard to the Convention.

“The Philippine government needs to do more than just protest in this case,” said BT Executive Director Atty. Richard Gutierrez. “It is in the government’s best interest and the interest of the global community to ensure that this dumping will not happen again and that no other countries should suffer the indignity that we are experiencing because of Canada’s non-compliance. The ICC can help ensure this.”

The DFA said it is still waiting for some documents from the DENR and the Bureau of Customs to back its note verbale to the Canadian Embassy. 

BAN and BT have already sent a letter requesting the Basel Secretariat to invoke the ICC based on the information provided to them by the groups. The letter asserts that as household wastes are a Basel Convention Annex II waste, Canada is bound to strictly control their export in accordance with the rules of the Convention. Canada however has maintained that its domestic laws do not control household waste, which indicates Canada has failed to properly transpose their international treaty obligations into domestic law.

The Basel Convention has adopted the ICC for handling matters of non-compliance. Cases can only be brought to the ICC either by the country out of compliance (Canada), an impacted country (Philippines) or by the Secretariat. The groups believe that the Philippines making a submission with the ICC sends a strong signal that international law functions well and provides hope for countries similarly victimized.

“The Basel Convention’s ICC will take this matter and study it independently with a view to assisting all countries to come into compliance with the Convention,” said BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett. “A diplomatic protest mechanism is here today, gone tomorrow. The committee will provide for real solutions so this never happens again.”

The DENR, various legislators, together with civil society groups and concerned personalities have been asking Canada to take back their waste for more than a year now, but Canada has repeatedly refused to take responsibility for the illegal waste shipment. Three weeks ago, the contents of the 26 of the 103 container vans have been buried in a landfill in Tarlac, and was met with widespread uproar in the country, leading to a provincial decree that halted further disposal.

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