If there was one bright spot in the Philippines vs Canada diplomatic row over a six-year old trash shipment, it brought worldwide attention to multiple cases involving other developed nations exporting their trash to third world countries.
As this is being written, more than 60 containers of toxic plastic trash such as used adult diapers and non-biodegradable plastic bottles is heading back to Canada after languishing in Philippine ports since they were discovered in 2014.
Sadly, the volume being shipped back is little more than half of the original shipment. The rest had been disposed off in local landfills, where they will almost certainly poison and pollute Philippine soil for decades, if not centuries, to come. The plastic may also melt and leach into the groundwater, which otherwise would have been a potable drinking supply.
Recently, it has been discovered that other developed states such as Australia and Hong Kong have been exporting their trash to such developing states like Malaysia and Indonesia.
The reason is obvious: the developed countries produce more toxic trash than they can handle, and their own strict laws regarding the disposal of such deadly garbage makes it extremely difficult to solve the growing problem.
Previously, China had been the willing recipient of the unwanted trash, since large sums are involved for the receiving party. But last year, China realized that the income earned was not commensurate to the risks involved, and the budding Asian superpower banned trash from entering their shores.
The problem, however, remains for the first world countries. They still produce not just plastic, but also used or obsolete electronic parts which are crushed but which cannot be dumped in landfills because of their hazardous nature.
The ugly solution was to ship them out to countries which have lax regulations, or which simply do not care about what enters their borders for as long as the proper taxes and tariffs are paid.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte may have overreacted when he threatened to declare war on Canada because it was taking too long for the North American nation to retrieve their unwelcome trash. Mr. Duterte even threatened to ship the containers of trash and dump them on Canadian waters.
While we do not agree with his methods, this was one time that we feel he did the right thing. Wrong manner, but right result.
In the last few weeks and months, more trash from other nations have been discovered in various Philippine ports. All will be shipped back to their countries of origin.
Since the worldwide problem has already been brought to the fore, it is now up to the first world states producing the trash to find other solutions. Perhaps the UN can help find ways out of this dirty mess.
This is an environmental issue, one that can become a global nightmare if no solution is found in the near future.
As for our beloved homeland, we hope that Customs authorities remain ever alert in order to make sure that the Philippines never again receives such unwelcome imports.
We also hope that the parties involved in the shipments are punished to the fullest extent of the law. Those money-hungry companies and individuals are the real garbage in our book.