House investigates illegal entry and dumping of hazardous plastic garbage from South Korea
The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability is chaired by Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo (Lone District, Camiguin), and other members for the proposition are the Committees on Ecology and Local Government chaired by Reps. Dakila Carlo Cua (Lone District, Quirino) and Pedro Acharon Jr. (1st District, South Cotabato).
The committees conducted a joint hearing on the basis of House Resolution No. 2317, authored by Rep. Juliette Uy (2nd District, Misamis Oriental), which calls for an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the illegal entry and dumping of hazardous plastic garbage from South Korea in the PHIVIDEC Industrial Estate in Tagaloan, Misamis Oriental, and the privilege speech of Rep. Frederick Siao (Lone District, Iligan City) about the shipment of 51 container vans of garbage from South Korea to the Port of Tagoloan in Misamis Oriental.
The hearing was presided by Rep. Henry Oaminal (2nd District, Misamis Occidental) for the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability and Rep. Luis Ferrer IV (6th District, Cavite) for the Committee on Local Government.
In his opening remarks, Oaminal said the probe will determine whether laws were violated in the subject importation of hazardous and toxic materials in the Philippine ports.
Oaminal further said the hearing will determine whether public officials and employees responsible thereof are guilty of malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance in the performance of their public duties.
Meanwhile, Uy, in her opening statement, said certain plastic recycling facility of a corporate body known as Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corporation imported in advance over 2,613 bags weighing 5,176.91 metric tons ostensibly for recycling purposes and which were declared as synthetic plastic flakes.
Uy said the importation by Verde Soko Philippines, a locator in the Phividec Industrial Estate of Misamis Oriental (Phividec), turned out later to have contents of hazardous and toxic substances with toxicity level of less than one percent or 0.06 percent to be exact as found out by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).
She said that from July 21, 2018 to August 5, 2018, these hazardous and toxic materials were unloaded in a Phividec private port inside the premises that is controlled by the Phividec Industrial Authority (PIA) headed in this area by Administrator Franklin Quijano.
Uy said the importation was found to have been deliberately misdeclared and supported by falsified documents from the country of origin and that they are nor recyclable.
She likewise disclosed that investigations by responsible government agencies revealed that the importer did not have the requisite import permit or import clearance.
“But somehow, the said materials that were already in their advanced rotten stage and super malodorous were nevertheless allowed to be unloaded from the ship and subsequently permitted to be laid on the grounds inside Phividec,” Uy said.
Uy also gave a short Powerpoint presentation on the South Korean garbage shipment and the Verde Sokor industrial recycling facility located within Phividec area.
Uy described the recycling facility as “not functioning recycling plant, dilapidated, lumang-luma na talaga, rusty na ang mga machine, and the so-called synthetic plastic flakes of Verde Soko is just dirty and stinky garbage.”
She said the video will show the magnitude of the hazardous trash from South Korea dumped in the Phividec Industrial Estate.
Uy also showed a video on the ceremonial return of the second shipment of South Korean trash which arrived last October 2018 and which was supposed to be unloaded at the same port.
“Pero na-hold ng BOC at pinabalik na sa South Korea,” Uy said.
But she said that the first shipment of the South Korean trash weighing 5,000 metric tons is still there, abandoned at the Phividec area.
Oaminal asked the BOC why the importation was transported to the Verde Soko business site within the Phividec Industrial Estate complex when it made the action of holding the shipment for lack of import permit.
Bureau of Customs (BOC) District Collector Floro Calixihan Jr. explained that the importation was not released but only transferred to Verde Soko plant site with legal basis which includes the approved special permit to transfer based on the Load Port Survey Report (LPSR) that the shipment was examined at the country of origin by an accredited surveyor of the Bureau of Customs; LPSR pursuant to Administrative Order (AO) 243; AO 243-A; and Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) 18-2010 which applies to break and bulk cargo, among others.
He said that at the time of the request for transfer, no derogatory information was received against the shipment from any regulatory agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Agriculture (DA), local government units (LGUs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Calixihan said the release of importation will only come upon payment of duties and taxes.
Oaminal asked why Calixihan did not order the return of the cargoes to the port of origin when after four months Verde Soko failed to submit the necessary requirements as imposed by the law.
Calixihan cited CMO 18-2018 which is applicable to that kind of shipment of break or bulk cargo which calls for the immediate transfer so as not to cause port congestion.
Oaminal asked again why Calixihan did not order the return of the July 2018 shipment in the same manner he did with the October 21, 2018 shipment.
Calixihan then replied that at that time there was no misdeclaration nor did they receive derogatory information regarding the shipment and they did not know that the cargo did not contain plastic synthetic flakes.
It was also revealed during the hearing that the mother company of Verde Soko Philippine Industrial Corporation based in South Korea can no longer be located in their area by the South Korean authorities.
Cua recommended to the panel that the BOC commissioner be asked to review the CMOs and to still require an importation permit before any transfer.
He said that it was a mere Load Port Survey Report (LPSR) that authorized the transfer of the cargo of trash.
Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Party-list, BAYAN MUNA) recommended for the filing of cases against officials of Verde Soko.
“This is not the first time that this issue is brought to Congress – Canadian basura, Japan basura, South Korean basura – here we are again talking about this,” he remarked
He said that those involved in the illegal entry of garbage should be “hold accountable before another shipment of garbage comes to our shore. I know this will not be the last,” Zarate said.
He added that it is cheaper for first world countries to ship their garbage to third world countries like the Philippines than to process the garbage in the countries.
The committees decided to conduct another meeting in Cagayan De Oro City upon the motion of Zarate.
Other authors of HR 2317 are Reps. Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba, Siao, Manuel Zubiri, Rolando Uy, Maximo Rodriguez Jr., Romualdo, Jorge Almonte, and Oaminal. ■