The waste and pollution watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition today presented the “Environmental Justice Award” to Bureau of Customs-Region 10 District Collector John Simon in a virtual ceremony. 

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Simon, a customs official with 31 years of distinguished service in the government sector, is the lone recipient of the group’s first ever “Environmental Justice Award” coinciding with the national observance of “Zero Waste Month” this January.

According to Eileen Sison, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, Simon is recognized “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.”

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“Simon’s decisive and unyielding action to uphold our country’s tariff and customs and environmental laws and the provisions of the Basel Convention on 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,” she said.

“I’m deeply honored to receive this special citation from the EcoWaste Coalition.  This award from a non-profit watchdog group on chemicals and wastes will surely inspire my fellow customs officials and employees to persevere in our role as protector of our nation against foreign waste dumping,” said Simon. 

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“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,” he emphasized.  “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.”

Watch the virtual awarding below.

In a video message, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar hailed Simon as “a model in an office that most requires brave idealism.” He said: “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 practices and, most importantly, by what is just.”

Secretary Andanar likewise cited the EcoWaste Coalition: “We acknowledge the importance of the EcoWaste Coalition in its task of ensuring the balance of ecosystems with the unguarded effects of progress,” assuring the group of “sustained support with the information dissemination as needed.”   

To prevent a repeat of foreign waste dumping incidents, Marian Ledesma, Campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines, pointed out that “a comprehensive waste importation ban is crucial for the Philippines as countries close their borders to foreign waste.”

“Exemptions and loopholes in our current regulation still allow the entry of dangerous substances. And so, Filipinos and the natural resources we rely on remain at risk for harms and contamination brought about by foreign waste. We cannot afford to become a prime destination for the world’s trash, as we end up shouldering the health and environmental costs of waste trade.  To protect the country from future exploitation, the Philippine government must prohibit waste importation altogether,” she said. 

To recall, contaminated waste shipments, falsely declared as “plastic synthetic flakes,” exported by Green Soko Co. Ltd. and consigned to Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corp. arrived in Misamis Oriental in July and October 2018 without prior import clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  

Customs and environmental authorities found unsorted plastic materials, household garbage, used dextrose tubes, soiled diapers, and discarded electronics in the bulk and containerized waste shipments in violation of national and international laws.  

Authorities confirmed the shipments as “misdeclared, heterogenous and injurious to public health” and in blatant violation of Republic Act 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, and DENR Administrative Order 2013-22, which states that “no importation of heterogenous and unsorted plastic materials shall be allowed.” 

Following bilateral negotiations, the illegal waste shipments totalling 364 containers (equivalent to 7,408 metric tons) were returned to Pyeongtaek City in seven batches between January 13, 2019 to September 15, 2020.

According to both the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace, “ratifying the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and preventing the entry of all waste imports into the country (including waste labeled for recycling) is the best strategy for countries such as the Philippines to protect its citizens and the environment from the harmful impacts of waste dumping.”

The Basel Convention Ban Amendment, which entered into force on December 5, 2019, prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries.

Chronology of Events on Re-Exportation of Illegal Waste Shipments from South Korea

July 21, 2018 and
October 21, 2018
Waste shipments, wrongly declared as “plastic synthetic flakes,” exported by Green Soko Co. Ltd. and consigned to Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corp. arrived in Misamis Oriental without prior import clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural.  The July shipments arrived at the port of the Philippine Sinter Corporation in Villanueva, while the October shipments arrived at the Mindanao International Container Terminal in Tagoloan.
November 6, 2018The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-10) issued its Waste Analysis and Characterization Study (WACS) report indicating that the shipments were “heterogenous and contained household hazardous waste” in violation of DENR A.O. 2013-22 banning the importation of heterogenous and unsorted plastic waste materials. 
November 13, 2018Senator Aquilino Pimentel III filed Resolution 939 directing the appropriate Senate Committee/s to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the reported importation of plastic waste from South Korea. Senators Nancy Binay and Grace Poe also called for legislative inquiry on the matter through Resolutions Nos. 942 and 947.
November 15, 2018The EcoWaste Coalition wrote to Ambassador Han Dong-man to press for the speedy re-importation of the illegally exported South Korean wastes languishing at the Mindanao International Container Terminal and the Phividec Industrial Estate.
November 21, 2018The Ministry of Environment of South Korea initiated a legal procedure to have the wastes in question in the Philippines be brought back in accordance with Article 20 of the Law on Cross-border movement and Disposal of Wastes—Prior Notice of Repatriation Order—and embarked on investigation of the violation of Article 18-2 of the said law—False Export Declaration.
November 27, 2018A team comprised of the Bureau of Customs (Manila and Region 10) and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-10) representatives conducted an examination of 15 of the 51 containers of South Korean waste.  The team found mixed wastes composed of plastics, metals, wood, rubber, soil, textile and electronic waste, including cellphone batteries, chargers and dry cell batteries.
November 28, 2018The EcoWaste Coalition assembled outside the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Port Area, Manila to submit a letter to Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero urging for the rapid return of the dumped Korean garbage to its origin. The protestors carried a ship replica topped with mixed garbage and wielded placards in English and Korean urging the authorities to expedite the re-exportation of the illegal waste shipments. 
December 6, 2018Bureau of Customs (BOC-10) issued a “Re-Exportation Order” after finding the waste shipments “misdeclared, heterogenous and injurious to public health.”  The order was recommended by John M. Simon, Port Collector, Mindanao Container Terminal Sub-Port and approved by Atty. Floro G. Calixihan, Jr., District Collector, Bureau of Customs – Collection District X.  BOC-10 had earlier issued a Warrant of Seizure and Detention against the Verde Soko imports for violation of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
December 13, 2018EcoWaste Coalition trooped to the South Korean Embassy in Taguig City for a “Keep Your Promise” pre-Christmas caroling to call for the expedited re-shipment of the Korean garbage to its source.  
December 27-28, 2018Bilateral meeting between the governments of the Philippines and South Korea held with over 35 participants, including representatives from the private sector such as the MICT Services Inc., Maersk Lines, Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. and the EcoWaste Coalition.
2018The Municipal Council of Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental adopted Resolution No. 261, Series of 2018 “strongly condemning the importation of plastic mixed with hazardous waste materials from South Korea” and requesting concerned parties to immediately ship back them back to their origin.
January 2, 2019Bureau of Customs (BOC-10) and the EcoWaste Coalition organized a joint press conference in Quezon City to announce the agreement reached by the governments of the Philippines and South Korea to re-export the illegal waste shipments to their source in Pyeongtaek City.  
January 13, 2019First batch of 51 containers (1,500 metric tons) of illegal waste shipments re-exported to South Korea via Kalliroe.
January 19, 2019Second batch of 50 containers (549.65 metric tons) of illegal waste shipments re-exported to South Korea via L8H Nordmarsh.
February 26, 2019Joint Committee Hearing of the House Committees on Good Government and Public Accountability, Local Government and Ecology held to tackle House Resolution 2317 calling for an inquiry on the illegal entry and dumping of misdeclared garbage in Mindanao.  The resolution’s principal authors include Representatives Juliette Uy, Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba, Frederick Siao, Manuel Zubiri, Rolando Uy, Maximo Rodriguez, Jr., Xavier Jesus Romualdo, Jorge Almonte and Henry Oaminal.
April 17, 2019Interpol issued “Red Notice” against Cho Chul Soo alias Charles Cho as “fugitive wanted for prosecution” at the request of the South Korean government.
June 13, 2019Second bilateral meeting held to discuss the repatriation of remaining South Korean waste where the government of the Philippines reiterated its position to have the waste returned to South Korea.
July 4, 2019The Regional Trial Court of Misamis Oriental (Batch 39) issued a warrant of arrest against Cho Chul Soo for violation of Republic Act 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act.
August 2, 2019EcoWaste Coalition wrote to President Moon Jae-in urging his government to immediately act on this pressing issue and not to allow the controversy to drag on like what happened to the infamous garbage from Canada that were finally returned in June 2019 after six years.
August 7, 2019Senator Aquilino Pimentel III filed Resolution No. 77 urging the Executive Department to expedite the return to South Kore of the illegally imported plastic wastes in Mindanao. 
August 12, 2019Fire destroyed part of the illegal South Korean waste shipments at the Verde Soko compound inside the Phividec Industrial Estate in Misamis Oriental.
December 12, 2019Bureau of Customs (BOC-10) issued “Amended Re-Exportation Order” directing South Korea to take back the remaining waste pursuant to Republic Act 10863 (Customs Modernization and Tariff Act), Republic Act 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act), and the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.
February 16, 2020Third batch of 50 containers (573.10 metric tons) of illegal waste shipments re-exported to South Korea via Vivalde.
March 27, 2020Fourth batch of 47 containers (789.45 metric tons) of illegal waste shipments re-exported to South Korea via MCC Medan.
July 18, 2020Fifth batch of 53 containers (1,242.75 metric tons) of illegal waste shipments re-exported to South Korea via MCC Nanjing.
August 4, 2020Sixth batch of 70 containers (1,717.50 metric tons) of illegal waste shipments re-exported to South Korea via BF Mahia.
September 15, 2020Seventh and final batch of 43 containers (1,036.01 metric tons) of illegal waste shipments re-exported to South Korea via BF Mahia.
January 19, 2021EcoWaste Coalition gave its first-ever “Environmental Justice Award” to BOC-10 District Collector John 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 of 7,408 metric tons of illegal waste shipments from South Korea in 2019-2020 in keeping with the tariff and customs and environmental laws of the Republic of the Philippines and the provisions of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.”

press release by Ecowaste Coalition

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