4 Customs agents charged for 2013 toxic waste shipment

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    A PANEL of prosecutors of the Department of Justice has slapped charges of violation of the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990 against four agents of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for the entry of 50 containers of hazardous wastes from Canada in 2013 that later become the subject of a diplomatic spat between Manila and Ottawa.

    Charges for violation of Republic Act 6969 were filed against Customs Examiner Officer III Benjamin Perez Jr. and Eufracio Ednaco and Customs Appraiser Officer V Jose Saromo and Matilde Bacongan, who were all assigned at the Formal Entry Division of the Manila International Container Port when the shipment arrived.

    The DOJ junked the complaint filed against Environmental Management Bureau Director Juan Miguel Cuna and employees Geri Geronimo Sanchez, Renato Cruz and Irvin Cadavona for lack of probable cause.

    The panel faulted Perez, Ednaco, Saromo and Bacongan for their failure to know that the container vans contained hazardous wastes following their admission that they physically examined the shipment.

    “When they rerouted the shipment to ‘green,’ they effectively facilitated the importation of hazardous wastes to the country,” stated the resolution signed by Assistant State Prosecutors Loverhette Jeffrey Villordon and Alejandro Daguiso and Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Gilmarie Fe Paccamara.

    Records show that the shipment was exported by Chronic Incorporated of Ontario, Canada from May 2013 to January 2014 and was consigned to the Chronics Plastic and Live Green Enterprise. It contained waste materials composed of a mixture of paper plastics, electronic waste and household trash, including diapers and kitchen trash.

    The DOJ said a check on the Customs Electronic 2 Mobile Systems showed there were only four entries filed by Chronic Plastic for 2013 and 2015 and none for Live Green.

    Of the four entries for Chronic Plastic, three were cleared while one was placed under alert for alleged violation of RA 6969 as well as the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.

    Under Customs clearance procedures, shipments tagged as “yellow” means it has to undergo just a document examination, while a “red” tag means the shipment must undergo physical and documentary inspection.

    The DOJ said despite the three shipment being tagged as yellow and red, they were rerouted to “green” meaning they have undergone both physical and documentary inspection and thereby cleared for release.

    The indictment was based on the investigation conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation last year which recommended to the DOJ the filing of cases against the said Customs and EMB officials and employees.

    The NBI said then that the Customs employees should have noticed during their document examination the questionable importation clearances filed by Chronics Plastic. It added the respondents should have exercised prudence in the discharge of their duties.