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Waste materials from Australia not illegal: Customs exec

Waste materials from Australia not illegal: Customs exec

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — The nearly dozen container vans that arrived from Australia early this month were not toxic garbage but processed materials that will be used as fuel for a cement company’s manufacturing plants, an official of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) 10 (Northern Mindanao) said Thursday.

Lawyer Roswald Joseph Pague, BOC-10 deputy customs collector, said the contents of the nine container vans were declared by the importer as “processed engineered fuel” and arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal (MCT) in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental on May 3.

Allaying fears that the materials may be hazardous and are purely garbage, like the trash from Canada and South Korea, Pague said the imported processed engineered fuel (PEF) — which contain items from municipal waste, such as plastic, rubber, wood, and paper — are safe and will not pose any hazard to the public.

“The evil that we’re trying to avoid (is that) it might cause seepage to the water tables or whatever contamination — it is totally absent, considering that it will be directly fed to the furnace,” Pague said, referring to the cement manufacturer Holcim Philippines, Inc., a member of the Lafarge Holcim Group, the company that imported the materials.

The PEF will be used by Holcim’s cement plants in Davao and Lugait, Misamis Oriental.

Pague said the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau has cleared Holcim to import the PEF for its cement manufacturing process.

Meanwhile, copies of letters from the Singapore-based ResourceCo Asia Pte. Ltd. and EMB showed the government’s approval of the PEF importation.

In 2017, ResourceCo sought EMB’s approval to export PEF and to supply the same to the cement manufacturers in the Philippines.

In his letter to EMB, Pavel Cech, ResourceCo managing director, said “the cement manufacturers in the country have been continuously exploring the use of green and alternative fuels and raw materials (AFR) for use in their cement manufacturing process as part of their sustainability programs.”

EMB Director Metodio Turbella replied in his Oct. 30, 2017 letter that the agency has interposed no objection on the import of PEF to be used as alternative fuel in cement kiln.

Last March this year, Turbella has maintained that its approval of ResourceCo is “technically binding until such time that there will be updated legislation or policy on the importation of recyclable materials prohibiting the importation of PEF.”

The imported materials are currently stored at the Phividec Industrial Estate compound in Tagoloan.

In a television interview Wednesday, MCT collector John Simon said the broker of the shipment — the same one who handled the import of wastes from South Korea last year –should be held answerable for the entry of the materials from Australia, adding that the broker committed infractions.

In the same interview, Alan Cuyno, technical manager of Holcim Phils. Inc., said what they imported was “not garbage” but “low-grade fuel.”