Australia to cooperate in investigation of alleged trash shipment

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Cebu City (CNN Philippines, May 24) — The Australian Embassy will assist in any investigation on a shipment of what the Bureau of Customs (BOC) considers to be trash that came from Down Under.

The seven container van shipment intercepted in Misamis Oriental on May 7, is currently in the custody of the BOC.

"As I understand that there are tests being made and we welcome those tests. We look forward to the results and we will wait and do what we will have to do on the basis of those results," Australian Ambassador Steven Robinson said in a media briefing in Cebu City.

He explained that the shipment from Australia contained processed engineered fuel (PEF), an alternative fuel source that could be used for manufacturing cement products.

"PEF is a low grade non-hazardous fuel processed from waste. That is what we are talking about. It is a viable alternative to fossil fuel used in producing cement fed directly into the furnace. We use PEF in producing fuel in Australia," he said.

The ambassador pointed out that the shipment had the approval of both the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Environmental Management Bureau.

He assured that the firm responsible for the shipment had all the required papers and permits.

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

Yesterday, the DENR said that they had no objection to the shipment.

The BOC, on the other hand, said that there were discrepancies in the papers presented to the agency, where it allegedly declared the shipment both as processed fuel and municipal waste.

"Dapat isa lang doon di pwedeng dalawa ang ilagay. Dalawa ang diniclare. Walang kambal tuko sa pag-declare sa customs. Isa lang dapat kasi bawat kargamento at commodity sa buong mundo mayroong corresponding classification coding at ang code," customs collector John Simon of the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) told reporters Friday.

[Translation: It should only be declared as one thing, not two. You can't do that when declaring in the Customs. It should only be declared because there is a corresponding coding method used worldwide.]

Simon said that the shipment will not be released to consigned Holcim Philippines Inc. until this issue is settled.

Reports of shipments of trash from Australia, Hong Kong and South Korea have cropped up amid the Philippines' row with Canada over nearly 2,500 tons of garbage illegally shipped to the country in batches from 2013 to 2014. President Rodrigo Duterte last month threatened to go to war with Canada if it fails to pull out the waste soon. Manila also recalled its diplomats in the North American country.

The Canadian government earlier said the shipments to the Philippines were commercial transactions done without its consent. On Wednesday, it announced that it has secured a contract to safely bring back the waste to Canada and that the removal would be completed "by the end of June." Duterte's spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, however, said that timetable is "too late." Panelo said Duterte has ordered that the waste be shipped back even at Manila's expense and that it be dumped in Canadian waters should Canada refuses to take it back..

Cagayan de Oro-based journalist Alwen Saliring contributed to this report.