Reexport of toxic waste materials to port of origin raises question; probe sought

Published by rudy Date posted on April 22, 2009

Why the shipment of 15 40-footer container vans of toxic waste materials was allowed to be “reexported” to its port of origin in violations of existing laws has puzzled local and international environmentalists who demanded yesterday an immediate investigation.

The questioned shipment of used hospital supplies described as “garbage” arrived last January from Hong Kong ostensibly for purposes of dumping them here in violations of the Anti-Dumping Law and the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.

The issue on whether it was legal to return the questioned shipment back to Hong Kong has also sparked a debate between two groups of Bureau of Customs (BoC) lawyers, one of which held that the toxic waste materials, which were injurious to public health should have been seized, forfeited and destroyed. The other group claimed otherwise.

Of the 15 container vans, five were sneaked into the Manila International Container Port at North Harbor while the 10 entered the Port of Manila.

Wu Hu, the consignee of the questioned shipment, claimed it was a cease of “misshipment,” adding what they ordered from Hong Kong suppliers were “pet bottles” but was instead given hospital wastes.

It appeared that the two district ports sustained the allegation of Wu Hu that it had been a case of misshipment as gleaned from their order recently for the reexportation of the waste materials.

The BoC’s Miscellaneous Division stumbled on the questioned shipment during a routinary inspection when it was attracted by foul smell emitting from the container vans. When some of the container vans were opened, they contained hospital wastes.

The division recommended that Wu Hu be prosecuted for violations of existing laws, particularly the Anti-Dumping Law. But another group of Customs lawyers recommended that the shipment be reexported to Hong Kong without any sanctions against the importer.

Customs insiders said it was highly doubtful if the same toxic waste materials would be accepted by Hong Kong, thus giving rise to suspicion that the garbage could have been dumped into the seas.

Greenpeace was set to send a formal letter to the BoC on its demand for an immediate investigation of the failed dumping of toxic waste materials into the country. –Conrado Ching, Daily Tribune

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