Japan assures Philippines it won’t be dumping ground for toxic wastes

Published on the October 30, 2006 issue of the Japan Economic Newswire

Japan assured the Philippines on Monday that it has no intention of using the country as a dumping ground for Japan’s toxic wastes, which were given zero-rated tariffs under a bilateral economic pact signed by the two countries in September.

The Japanese Embassy, in a statement issued in response to criticism from environmental groups that the trade pact allows Japan to ship its industrial and household wastes to the Philippines, said Japan will adhere to international agreements on environment and waste disposal.

It said Japan has established a legal framework on how to deal with toxic and hazardous wastes based on the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, a legally binding global commitment.

Japan and the Philippines are both signatories to the convention, which is intended to prevent the transfer of hazardous wastes from industrialized countries to developing countries.

Neither, however, has ratified the Basel Ban Amendment to the convention, which bans trade in all waste, including waste meant for recycling.

“There seems to be some misunderstanding in the Philippines that toxic and hazardous wastes will be exported from Japan to the Philippines as customs duties of waste materials will be eliminated after the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement comes into effect,” the embassy said.

“Japan remains strongly committed to the strict enforcement of such export/import control, which will prevent any illegal export of toxic and hazardous wastes to the Philippines,” it added.

Philippine Trade Secretary Peter Favila said the Philippines will not become Japan’s toxic waster dumping ground, adding that the waste provision in the JPEPA “does not mean anything.”

He said the inclusion of wastes and toxic materials, which the World Trade Organization allows to be traded as goods, was a negotiating strategy to avoid offering another product that has a bigger economic implication.

“If we didn’t do it, we would be forced to offer another product. It’s a negotiation strategy,” Favila said, adding that he and Japanese trade minister Akira Amari reaffirmed their governments’ shared commitment to the Basel agreement in a meeting last week.

But various environmental and civil society groups have called on the Philippine government to thoroughly review the trade accord and rescind it if it proves to be disadvantageous for the country.

Some have said they will lobby the Senate to junk the trade pact.

“Our stand is grounded on our opposition to all forms of waste dumping, be it by Filipinos or Japanese, because we are not a Garbage Republic,” said Marie Marciano, a member of the local environmental group EcoWaste Coalition.

Dave Diwa of the Manila-based Fair Trade Alliance, a local trade watchdog, said controversial issues such as the toxic waste provision should be reviewed, and the provision removed if needed, when Japan and the Philippines meet again to draft protocols for the trade pact.

On Sept. 9, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi signed the free trade agreement that will scrap tariffs for 94 percent of bilateral trade value and open up Japan’s labor market for Philippine nurses and caregivers.

The bilateral trade accord, which will take effect by the end of 2007 after the Philippine Congress and the Japanese Diet approve it, seeks to liberalize the flow of trade, goods and services between the two countries.

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