MANILA – The government will stay vigilant against the smuggling of foreign wastes into the country after successfully sending illegal garbage back to South Korea, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said on Sunday.

Andanar described the return of South Korean waste to its origin as a “victory” that not only represented “environmental justice” but also “health justice” for every Filipino.

“We, in the Duterte administration, will remain vigilant and in cognizance on matters of global waste smuggling to prevent instances, such as this, that could greatly and negatively impact our country on different levels,” he said in a statement.

He said the hazardous waste could have affected the health of millions of Filipinos if left “unchecked and neglected.”

The PCOO chief lauded the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Collection District 10, which coordinated with the concerned parties and authorities in making the return of the smuggled garbage to South Korea possible.

Andanar also heads the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security for Region 10 (Cords-10).

“The Duterte administration’s commitment and political will, through the BOC, has truly played a significant role in its timely and successful re-exportation,” he said.

The government shipped back last month its last batch of South Korean trash dumped in Misamis Oriental town of Tagoloan after wrongfully being declared as “plastic synthetic flakes” by the importer.

The assorted garbage, composed of discarded plastic and other items, arrived in the region in July and October 2018.

BOC Collection District 10 estimated the total tonnage of the trash at 6,500 metric tons contained in 40-foot container vans. A 40-foot van has a carrying capacity of about 30 metric tons.

Last year, Duterte renewed his call to Canada to pull out tons of garbage which was dumped in the Philippines from 2013 to 2014.

He even threatened to set sail to Canada and dump the garbage back there if they refused to resolve the issue.

Duterte gave Canada until May 15, 2019 to take its trash back but the North American country failed to meet the deadline which prompted the government to recall its Philippine ambassadors and consuls to Canada and ban government officials from travelling there.

The President lifted the ban after the departure of Canadian wastes from the Port of Subic last May 2019. (PNA)