In 2013,the Bureau of Customs at the Port of Manila intercepted 50 shipping containers declared to be plastic scrap for recycling sent by Chronic Inc., a Whitby, Ont.-based plastics exporter owned by Jim Makris. Upon inspection authorities found containers filled with household garbage, soggy paper and even used adult diapers. The shipment was impounded at Manila International Container Terminal when the shipment was declared junk materials that could pose biohazard risks. The Bureau of Customs stated it is clear that the importer violated the country’s tariff and environmental laws.
The waste sat rotting in containers as outrage in the Philippines grew.
Under the Basel Convention, to which Canada and the Philippines are signatories, it is illegal to ship hazardous waste internationally, except in special circumstances. The Canadian Embassy to the Philippines said in a statement in 2013 that the Basel Convention and Canadian domestic regulations allows Manila for the shipment to be returned “if they are found to be in contravention with the Convention or cannot be completed in an environmentally sound manner.”
In February of 2014, representatives from the Philippine consulate met with Mr. Makris to discuss the situation. Although the shipment had originally been flagged “because the consignee had submitted incorrect documents for the importation which has a declared value of over $220,000”, Mr. Makris would speculate that “someone along the chain of delivery wanted to be paid off before his second shipment is allowed through.”
The issue of the rotting waste morphed into a diplomatic hot potato game as Philippine politicians demanded that Canada take back the waste shipment. Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago called for an official government inquiry into the Canadian garbage, the country’s Bureau of Customs threatened legal action while Leah Paquiz, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, issued the statement, “Pick up your garbage Canada, and show us the decency that we so rightfully deserve as a nation. My motherland is not a garbage bin of Canada.”
Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, in an email to The National Post, would state they were working with the shipper and the Government of the Philippines to find and solution although “Currently there are no domestic laws which the Government of Canada could apply to compel the shipper to return his containers to Canada.”
Environmental groups protested the lack of action. A petition with 25,000 signatories urged Canada pick up the garbage.
The shipper Chronic Inc did not pick up containers. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the Bureau of Customs was investigating the 150-worker plant in Valenzuela City started by Makris to sort and sell the plastic he ships.