Atty. Harry L. Roque, Jr. 09175398096
Chairperson, Center for International Law
The Philippines should vigorously pursue the liability of Canada under international environmental law – in particular under the Basel Convention – for exporting to the country without the latter’s consent 50 40-footer container vans of hazardous wastes, according to a UP professor of international law.
“It’s a shame Canada, which fashions itself to be a world leader in the promotion of the Rule of Law, is acting as if it does not know what its duties are as a party to the Basel Convention on Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal,” said Prof. Harry L. Roque Jr., who teaches international law at the UP College of Law and chairperson of the Center for International Law, a non-profit dedicated to promoting binding international legal norms in the domestic setting.
To begin with, Canada is acting deviously on the controversy as it violated the Basel Convention requirement that to begin with, it cannot export to the Philippines any hazardous waste without the latter’s written consent, said Prof. Roque.
Like Canada, the Philippines is a party to the multi-lateral treaty.
The issue has become a sore point between the two countries, with Canada eschewing responsibility over the shipment and passing it on to Ontario-based Canadian firm Chronic Inc., and its Philippine partner. Chronic allegedly shipped the vans to the Philippines in 2013 as recyclables. But the Bureau of Customs, upon inspection, found these to be filled with “toxic” wastes.
Prof. Roque said Canada is responsible for the repatriation of the wastes back to its own shores under the terms of the Basel Convention.
And while the shipment was mis-declared by its Canadian exporter and its Philippine partner as that of “recyclable plastics,” Canada cannot claim it did not know the contents of the container vans because as the state of origin, it had the obligation to inspect the contents of the shipment, according to Prof. Roque.
“In addition, under the Basel Convention, if the shipment cannot be completed under the authorized terms or within the provisions of the Convention, the state of export – Canada – must re-import the shipment unless an alternative arrangement for proper disposal can be made within ninety days of notification by the state of import,” he said.
“Thus even assuming that the Philippines legally consented to receive the shipment, by the terms of the Convention, Canada remains responsible for the waste up until its disposal, and may be entirely liable for costs if fulfillment of the contract becomes impossible,” said Prof. Roque.
The Canadian embassy in the Philippines insists it is not liable for anything.
He said that if Canada refuses to accept responsibility for the wastes, the Philippines may take the issue up to an international arbitral panel or to the International Court of Justice.
“This not a question of cost but of principle,” he said. “The cost will be recovered later on, but Canada should be made to face up to its obligations under international law not just to the Philippines but to all the parties to the Basel Convention.”