DENR: Shipments from Australia to be used as fuel, not garbage

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 23) — The Environment Department said shipments from Australia intercepted in Misamis Oriental were not garbage as it is a source of fuel.

According to documents shared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) to CNN Philippines Thursday, the shipments from Australia are processed engineered fuel (PEF) used in cement production.

A document addressed to John Simon, Port Collector-Mindanao International Container Terminal, said the EMB has "no objection to its importation and to be used as an alternative fuel in cement production."

The port is under the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

A separate letter from Geronimo Sañez, DENR-EMB hazardous waste management section chief, addressed to Metodio Turbella, EMB director, states the products have undergone processing in Australia.

The EMB said PEF "is comprised mainly of industrial and commercial recyclable materials such as plastics, cardboard, paper, textile, waste timber and other inert materials."

Holcim Philippines Inc. (HPI) imported the materials for use in its plants.

Despite the EMB posing no objection to the shipments, the BOC was alerted to and an inspection was made and showed that it contained "shredded municipal wastes" such as scrap plastic, cellophane, wrappers, textile, stones, and soil among others.

Apart from stones and soil, the EMB said the shipments "conformed with the acceptable waste" for PEF and "meets the waste acceptance criteria of HPI."

"In addition, the source of the imported PEF was found to be Resource Co., which is a market leader in alternative fuels manufacturing such as the production of PEF," it said.

Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said the shipments apprehended by customs officials in Misamis Oriental are safe and meet standards under environmental laws on imported goods.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, HPI said the EMB cleared the materials in the shipment from Australia in line with Section 4 of DENR Administrative Order 2010-06: Guidelines on the Use of Alternative Fuels and Raw Materials in Cement Kiln.

HPI said the materials in the shipment were "accurately and truthfully declared" as PEF.

"Holcim Philippines’ importation and use of PEF as alternative fuel for its cement kilns is pursuant to its objective of contributing to the ongoing efforts to address the global waste problem," it added.

BOC: Declaration was different

However, Simon said there was a difference in what was indicated in the shipment's declaration.

"Nakita namin sa kanyang deklarasyon meron siyang pagkakaiba iba. Sa deklarasyon sa Customs hindi pwedeng iba-iba, isang uri lang ang dapat dinedeclare. Sa kanilang deklarasyon, dala-dalawa ang nilagay nila: fuel or Processed Engineered Fuel pero pag nilagay mo ang tariff which is classification ng anumang kargamento, ang lumalabas ay municipal waste," he said.

[Translation: We saw in the declaration that there was a difference. In the Customs declaration, that shouldn't happen, there should only be one. In their declaration, they put in two: fuel or processed engineered fuel but when you put in the tariff, which is the classification of any shipment, what appears is municipal waste.]

The discrepancy in the declaration is a violation of the law, said Simon

"Kaya may [That's why there is an] apparent violation as far as Customs law is concerned," he added.

"Ang tanong, pareho ba yang dalawang yan? Ang pinagpipilitan nila, pareho lang yan [The question is, are they the same? They insist it is]. But I beg to disagree because Garbage is garbage, fuel is fuel."

At a media briefing Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said, "We will not allow ourselves to be dumping ground of trash."

"That is our stance. It will be offensive to this government, to be recepient of trash or basura. We are offended by that, we will not allow it. We will send them back. In the first place, bakit ba nakakapasok yan [how did that even get in]?"

CNN Philippines correspondent Carolyn Bonquin and senior digital producer Pia Garcia contributed to this report.