THE Office of the Ombudsman has suspended Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuna in connection with the abandoned shipment of garbage imported from Canada to the Philippines in 2013, according to a statement released on Friday.
According to the Ombudsman, Mr. Cuna was, “found guilty of Simple Misconduct and ordered suspended without pay for three months,” with DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu directed to implement the suspension order.
The Ombudsman added Mr. Cuna faces violations of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for allegedly “mishandling” the shipment of trash.
It was discovered in its investigation that Canadian-based exporter Chronic Inc. shipped the container vans filled with plastic scrap materials “without securing import entries for its shipment that arrived in July 2013 and August 2013.” There were 50 containers in total that were not claimed by Chronic.
Upon closer look, Ombudsman investigators found that Mr. Cuna, then Director of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), “issued a Registry Certificate for the Importation of Recyclable Materials Containing Hazardous Substances dated 19 June 2013 despite the lack of details in the Importer’s Registry Sheet.”
“Respondent Cuna acted with gross inexcusable negligence when he issued a Registry Certificate in favor of Chronic Plastics despite the insufficient details in its Importer Registry Sheet,” the Ombudsman said.
It explained, “[w]ithout the necessary information, the EMB cannot sufficiently make a determination that Chronic Plastics is capable of recycling materials to be imported. However, despite this, respondent Cuna still approved Chronic Plastic’s application of registration.”
Mr. Cuna also allegedly issued six Importation Clearances to Chronic Plastics “despite an existing Notice of Violation dated 05 September 2013 for importing heterogenous and assorted plastic materials in violation of DENR Administrative Order No. 1994-28.”
According to the Ombudsman, “it is the mission of the EMB to protect, restore and enhance environmental quality towards good public health, environmental integrity and economic viability. It is also mandated to strictly implement environmental laws and restrict or prohibit the importation, manufacture, processing, sale, distribution, use and disposal of chemical substances and mixtures that present unreasonable risk and/or injury to health or the public.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin J.P. Trudeau has expressed willingness to resolve the issue with the Philippine government but has yet to order the trash to be returned. — Dane Angelo M. Enerio