BOC-10 chief gets ‘Environmental Justice Award’

For his efforts to return the tons of trash to South Korea, environmental group EcoWaste Coalition conferred the “Environmental Justice Award” to Bureau of Customs Region 10 (BOC-10) district collector John Simon via an online ceremony Tuesday.

EcoWaste lauded Simon “for his exemplary leadership, unfaltering dedication and focused action to protect public health and the environment from hazardous wastes from overseas, particularly in relation to the successful re-exportation in 2019-2020 of some 7,408 metric tons of illegal waste shipments from South Korea”.

The award coincided with the national observance of the “Zero Waste Month”.

In a statement, EcoWaste Coalition president Eileen Sison said Simon’s “decisive and unyielding action to uphold our country’s tariff and customs and environmental laws and the provisions of the Basel Convention of the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal led to the completion of the re-exportation procedures last September 15 amid the Covid-19 challenges”.

Simon said the award “will surely inspire my fellow customs officials and employees to persevere in our role as protector of our nation against foreign waste dumping”.

“Environmental justice demands that we assert our sovereign right not to be treated as dumping ground for wastes from abroad that can put the health of our people and that of our ecosystems in harm’s way. This job is too big for one agency to accomplish, so I reach out to all sectors, especially to the environment department and congress to take on this challenge and strictly ban waste imports like what other Asian countries have done,” he said.

Aside from the EcoWaste Coalition commendation, Simon has also been recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme for the return of the South Korean garbage. He will formally receive the award next month.

Simon is also the recipient of the 2020 Asia Environmental Enforcement Award by the World Customs Organization–a first in the BOC history.

In a video message during the online awarding ceremony, Sec. Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Operations Office described Simon as “a model in an office that most requires brave idealism”.

“One man stood to protest, fight, and have the South Korean garbage returned to its country of origin. He braved diplomatic problems, armed with the law and port regulations, and consequently succeeded to uphold what is right by international and domestic practice and, most importantly, by what is just,” Andanar said.

He has assured the coalition of “sustained support with the information dissemination as needed”.

Marian Ledesma, Greenpeace Philippines campaigner, said the dumping of foreign trash could be prevented by establishing a “comprehensive waste importation ban”.

“Exemptions and loopholes in our current regulation still allow the entry of dangerous substances…To protect the country from future exploitation, the Philippine government must prohibit waste importation altogether,” Ledesma said.

In 2018, the trash from Pyeongtaek City, South Korea, arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, in two batches.

The shipment was wrongfully declared by the importer as “plastic synthetic flakes” and was flagged by the BOC-10. It was later discovered that the consignee failed to secure an importation permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Following bilateral negotiations initiated by BOC-10, the illegal waste shipments totaling 364 containers–equivalent to 7,408 metric tons–were returned to South Korea in seven batches between January 2019 to September last year.

Source: Philippines News agency

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