IF the surreptitiously negotiated and hurriedly signed Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) is making environmentalists jittery over the issue of toxic and hazardous waste trade, it’s because of one word: precedent.

No matter how the government tries to allay fears by saying that the laws regarding the ban on the entry and disposal of toxic and hazardous waste in the country will be strictly enforced despite their inclusion in the trade pact, and given preferential zero-percent tariff rates no less, the fact is that this is not our first encounter with Japanese waste.

Seven years ago, Japanese trash found its way to Philippine shores neatly packaged in 122 (124 in some reports) 40-foot container vans which arrived at the Port of Manila in July 1999. The consignee, Sinsei Enterprises, declared the shipment as carrying waste paper for recycling. But upon visual inspection, port authorities discovered that the vans contained hazardous, toxic and infectious clinical wastes, which included:

  • needles for intravenous injections
  • medical rubber hose and tubes
  • used adult and baby diapers
  • used sanitary napkins
  • discarded intravenous syringes used in blood letting and dextrose
  • garments
  • bandages, and other hospital wastes

There were also electronic equipment, PVC plastic materials mixed with industrial and household wastes, styropor packaging materials, sacks, plastic sheets, PVC pipes, plastic packaging materials, paper, and plastic food packaging materials.

Environmentalists warned then that it was not the first time that toxic waste from Japan had been brought to the Philippines in the guise of “recycling.”

Von Hernandez, then Greenpeace toxics campaigner for Southeast Asia, said that Japan and other industrialized countries were reported to have legally exported lead acid batteries in 1994 for recycling by battery firms, despite the threat poised to the environment and human health by such activity.

Hernandez also pointed to shipbreaking as another form of recycling involving hazardous waste where old Japanese ships containing hazardous materials were imported and recycled in Cebu province.

Under strong pressure from environmentalists and European countries like Denmark, the Basel Convention adopted and ratified a major amendment in 1995 called the Basel Ban to prohibit wealthy member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) from exporting hazardous wastes to non-OECD states. The Basel Ban Amendment applies to all exports, including those meant for recycling.

A signatory to the convention, the Philippines has yet to ratify the Basel Ban, which is a vote shy of the required 62 nations for it to enter into force. It is, however, considered morally binding to the Basel Convention signatories.

In the aftermath of the 1999 Japan toxic waste fiasco, the Utsunomiya District Court sentenced in March 2002 Katsuhiro Mizuguchi, a Japanese trader, to three years in prison together with a Japanese waste-disposal company, Nisso Ltd. in Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture.

Presiding Judge Kenichi Hiruma ruled that Mizuguchi, 64, head of a Philippine-based trading house, conspired with Nisso President Hiromi Ito, 52, to export 2,160 tons of waste — falsely claimed as “recyclable” materials — containing such materials as disposable plastic syringes, diapers and sanitary napkins to the Philippines from a Tokyo port in July and October 1999 without obtaining permission from the Japanese government. This was in violation of the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law.

Hiruma rejected Mizuguchi’s defense that he only helped Nisso go through export procedures the ruling, as the court found him to have played a role in the scheme by ensuring that garbage containing mostly waste paper was placed near the doors of containers to pass the waste off as recyclable paper.

The Japanese government eventually shipped back the waste from the Philippines to Japan, embarrassed by being exposed as a nation that would dump harmful waste on a poorer neighbor. At the time the ruling was issued, Ito was still standing trial on charges of illegal waste export.

Within Japan, illegal waste dumping, according to Greenpeace Japan, already involves around 400,000 tons of trash per year. Illegal trash disposal — including illegal waste exports — can only increase, it said, in light also of the Health and Welfare Ministry’s admission back in 2000 that disposal sites were about to be filled up within the next two years.

A 2000 report of the Inter Press Service estimated Japan’s yearly industrial waste to be about 400 million tons. Only 150 million got recycled while the remaining 250 million tons were either buried or incinerated. Japan’s annual household waste was placed at around 50 million tons.

Judging from the provisions of the JPEPA, environmentalists say this is probably not going to be the country’s last encounter with Japanese waste. The Philippine government, they claim, already seems to have forgotten the lessons of the 1999 Japanese toxic waste fiasco.

14 Responses to Environmentalists’ fears of Japan-RP treaty not unfounded



October 30th, 2006 at 10:17 pm

Alecks, hindi sikreto na malaki ang problema ng bansang Hapon tungkol sa basura, lalo na ang industrial wastes.

Kung natatakot ang mga ‘environmentalists’ sa mga basurang nabanggit sa itaas, mas matakot at mangilabot sila kung basura ng mga industriya na ang pag-uusapan.

Bilang isang paglilinaw, HINDI polisiya (policy) ng gobyernong Hapon ang magpadala ng basura sa labas ng bansa nila, bagama’t nagkakandarapa ang mga ‘policy makers’ nila paano ito resolbahan. Ang isang pagawaan sa kanila ay sumasailalim tuwi-tuwina ng isang masusing imbestigasyon tungkol sa waste disposal. Istrikto sila sa puntong ito at walang sinasanto.

Pero hindi din sikreto, na merong bahagi sa mga pribadong kumpanya na ang negosyo ay kumokontrata ng pagtatapon ng basura o dili kaya’y ‘recycling’ nito, ay mga taong ‘shady character’ at ang mga ito ay merong koneksyon sa underworld.

komo’t ang ‘Pinas ay nagiging paboritong bakasyunan, taguan, at tirahan ng mga ito, no thanks sa kontsabahan ng ilang lokal opisyales na miyembro ng din ng lokal underworld, dito nagkakaroon ng ugnayang negosyo ang nasa Hapon at lokal.

sabi nga, supply creates its own demand; dahil marami tayong suplay ng mga mandarambong at manloloko, kaya meron ganitong umiiral na negosyo.

para masugpo ang ganitong kalakaran, dapat mahigpit ang ugnayan ng SEC/DTI (na siyang nagbibigay ng lisensyang pangnegosyo), Bureau of Customs, Phil Ports Authority, local government units-business permit division at malinis na Kapulisan sa isang bahagi, at NGO’s sa kabilang bahagi. Hindi dapat ituring ng mga lokal na opisyal na kaaway ang huli, kundi tunay na kapanalig.

Ang ilan sa mga nakakatakot na basura ay yaong may CFC’s content, merkuryo, langis at petrolyo, bilang panimula, at kung makakapasok ang Nuclear plant wastes…ewan.



November 1st, 2006 at 4:10 am

on the Ban ratification: 62 are already in.

in this country status table: Japan acceded to the treaty on 17 Sep 1993 while the Philippines ratified the treaty on 21 Oct 1993. both countries joined in the consensus decisions II and III.


one good thing about waste is that it may cease to be waste thereby becoming a tradable good.

the bad thing is when toxic or hazardous wastes are transported to us, get zero tariffs and are not banned.


definitely, when it comes to Rubbish, 3Rs are in (not the Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic please)…but i cannot imagine how to reduce Japan’s trash, reuse baby diapers, or recycle sanitary napkins for table use…


Will the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement turn the Philippines into a dumping ground for Japanese toxic waste? at Asia-Watch

November 1st, 2006 at 7:27 am

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Alecks Pabico

November 1st, 2006 at 9:34 am

Thanks for the update, Baycas. Too bad, the Philippines and Japan are not among the 62.



November 1st, 2006 at 10:14 am

it is to be noted that both Japan and the Philippines are already bound by the Basel Convention in 1999 AND YET a Japanese recycling firm violated the regulation then for which the Japanese government spent thousands of dollars for the forced repatriation of the illegally-trafficked garbage.

The incident brought shame to Japan as a member of the international community and paved the way for a high-level liaison coordination meeting between the two countries (also here) for the purpose of quickly resolving the case and preventing its recurrence. we hope BY NOW they have already crafted more effective legislation and harmonization of polices to safeguard against the traffic of hazardous waste.

it is to be noted also that the Basel Ban is NOT YET entered into force despite a total of 62 ratifications. an ambiguity of interpretation in Article 17 paragraph 5 of the Basel Convention is the reason. i think this would not in any way diminish the purpose of the Convention, it’s just that member Parties may deviate from the provisions due to lack of the badly-needed consensus on the matter.



November 1st, 2006 at 10:18 am

Waste from Japan disallowed under existing laws says the DENR.

although, legal experts warn that RP-Japan pact could override existing laws.

a review of this JPEPA treaty is therefore in order…
in order to avoid it to become a cheapepay deal!


you’re welcome, alecks.



November 1st, 2006 at 10:38 am

i don’t know what’s the meaning of this declaration as read in the “Status of ratifications” page…



The Government of Japan declares that nothing in the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal be interpreted as requiring notice to or consent of any State for the mere passage of hazardous wastes or other wastes on a vessel exercising navigational rights and freedoms, as paragraph 12 of article 4 of the said Convention stipulates that nothing in the Convention shall affect in any way the exercise of navigational rights and freedoms as provided for in international law and as reflected in relevant international instruments.



November 1st, 2006 at 10:43 am

correct link to Japan’s Declaration



November 1st, 2006 at 10:17 pm

baycas, thanks for the reprimand. am doubly grateful for the links.

if indeed it is now Japan’s current government expanded policy treating wastes as export commodity, the more reason Pinoys (and not only environmentalists, often miscontrued as commies, leftists, etc. by some myopic bloggers) scoff at their government and prevent JPEPA from being inserted with provisions hazardous to health.

the Senate, as treaty ratifier, must shake GMA and her gang of squatters, down to the last info on provisions which may become part of such.

and more importantly, even before the Senate tackles the issue, citizens must get their acts together in probing importers who may have been already engaged in facilitating entry of these wastes.

in addition to earlier enumerated list, please add Central Bank (importers are required to secure a CB clearance) and import brokerage houses (companies facilitating release of container vans from the ports) in the watchlist.


Alecks Pabico

November 2nd, 2006 at 12:17 pm


I also find the statement from the Japanese government, courtesy of its embassy here, cryptic. The exact quote below is from an inq7 report:

“The government of Japan has an established legal framework based on the Basel Convention and has been enforcing strict import/export control, which does not allow any export of toxic and hazardous wastes to another country, including the Philippines, unless the government of such a country approves such export.”

If Japan was serious about its Basel Convention commitments, it should be unequivocal about it, without having to qualify it with the clause: “unless the government of such a country approves such export.

Which is also the point being argued by today’s Inquirer editorial.



November 2nd, 2006 at 10:31 pm

then Japanese PM koizumi in june 2004 proposed the 3R initiative to tackle the global waste problem. this was adopted in that G8 (group of eight most developed countries) meet. BAN (basel action network) and GAIA (global alliance for incinerator alternatives) found the initiative dubious and that there is only a focus on the third R with lacking of a fourth R.

dubious…considering (1) Japan and the US (two of the biggest proponents of 3R) are well known for their opposition to the Basel Convention’s call for national self-sufficiency in hazardous waste management and the Basel Ban Amendment – a decision by the Basel Parties to ban all exports of hazardous wastes from rich to poorer countries; (2) both countries were involved in the illegal trade of eWaste (hazardous electronic waste) to developing countries; and (3) that one of the primary goals of the initiative is to Reduce barriers to the international flow of goods and materials for recycling and remanufacturing, recycled and remanufactured products, along with cleaner, more efficient technologies, consistent with existing environmental and trade obligations and frameworks.”

emphasis on Recycling defeats the purpose of Reducing waste. this is especially true as volume of waste produced in the US and Japan seems to be rising in recent years. they are going about their usual business of producing goods (with concomitant production of waste)…anyway, waste can be recycled and can hopefully help other nations where the recycling can be done…regardless whether its harmful or not to those lowest wage countries of the world!

the addition of a fourth R, which is Responsibility, could spell a difference…

the foregoing is detailed here and here…please read on.


The government of Japan has an established legal framework based on the Basel Convention and has been enforcing strict export/import control, which does not allow any export of toxic and hazardous wastes to another country, including the Philippines, unless the government of such a country approves such export.”

…and JPEPA approves such an export…tsk, tsk, tsk…



November 18th, 2006 at 5:48 pm

on the brighter side of things, junking the JPEPA is like throwing out the bathwater with the baby because of the potential economic gain we will enjoy from the deal. our country’s GDP growth was also assured by DTI sec. favila once the treaty is already in effect. he even literally put his head on the line for this (page A7 of today’s pdi).

but, lest it be discounted, economic gain must not sacrifice health and environmental safety issues. it is therefore deemed important to reiterate Basel Action Network’s press release ten days ago:

“The truth has not been told about Japan’s true intentions to utilize bilateral free trade agreements such as JPEPA to project their vision of a free trade in waste particularly between Japan and its developing country neighbors,” said Richard Gutierrez of the Basel Action Network’s new Asia Pacific office in Manila. “Not only is this very dangerous for the sustainability of the Philippines, but the JPEPA is a direct attack on the goals and decisions of the Basel Convention—a landmark treaty designed to protect developing countries and already accepted by over 160 countries,” he said.

Much is revealed in the policy brief entitled Networking International Recycling Zones in Asia. In it, a two leg strategy is projected to override the “cumbersome procedure” of the Basel Convention which “has become a barrier to international trade of recyclables.” First, the strategy advocates utilizing the Japanese G8 project known as the “3R Initiative” which under the name of promoting recycling promotes the elimination of trade barriers to wastes. Second, the Japanese strategy advocates the use of bilateral free trade agreements (such as JPEPA) to eliminate trade barriers in waste and in particular make use of the “comparative advantage” of developing countries…

“It is well known that Japan has no intention of ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment and is taking steps to prevent its neighbors from implementing it as well,” said Richard Gutierrez of BAN. “To Japan the JPEPA is a very important opening gambit in a global chess game to undermine the Basel Convention and its principle of not allowing waste colonialism.”

…and their recommendations:

1. Immediate removal of all waste trade liberalization provisions from the JPEPA.

2. Japan and the Philippines must ratify the Basel Convention’s Ban Amendment at the earliest possible date as they have been urged to do since 1995.

3. A full impartial multi-stakeholder inquiry into how these provisions survived the negotiation process.

4. Japan must completely remove from the 3R initiative all references to eliminating or reducing trade barriers for wastes and cease efforts to liberalize waste trade globally.

5. Japan and the Philippines must embark on a serious program to prevent hazardous and other wastes at source via toxics use reductions, elimination of excessive packaging and planned obsolescence.


finally, malacañang has transmitted to the senate for scrutiny the controversial pact sans amendments. i hope if ever it may be ratified the important revisions/amendments in the provisions, particularly regarding trade of toxic wastes, would already be done.


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