The government will ship 122 containers of hazardous medical and household waste to Japan from the Philippines early next month by securing ships in cooperation with the Transport Ministry, trade chief Takashi Fukaya said Friday. The move will be the first time the government has accepted the return of waste shipped abroad. Fukaya said the government has already chartered the ships to depart Jan. 2 and 3 for shipping the waste back to Japan. The trade chief also said his ministry will file criminal charges against the exporter of the hazardous material, which has been identified as Nissho Ltd. in Tochigi Prefecture. The government will ship the hazardous material on behalf of the company in question, because owners of the firm have been on the run being served an arrest warrant for illegal dumping of waste in Japan, Fukaya said. He added that his ministry will also subject the company to an administrative punishment for having exported the waste without notification procedures required for hazardous materials. Underscoring the political impact the incident had on Japanese-Philippine relations, Fukaya said he made a quick decision after consulting with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and Foreign Minister Yohei Kono. Fukaya’s comment is in line with the announcement made Thursday in Manila by Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Yoshihisa Ara. Ara told reporters following a meeting with Philippine officials at the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs that Japan intends “to complete the removal of all the waste from the Philippines” by Jan. 11. The Japanese government decided to take back the illegally shipped waste after a seven-man team from Japan confirmed the waste was hazardous and poses health risks. Ara said the Japanese and Philippine governments “decided to establish a bilateral working group to prevent a recurrence of such an incident (and will) review the export and import procedures of the two countries under the Basel Convention.” The Basel Convention sets limits on hazardous waste shipments between countries and regions. Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon said the Philippines is “very much satisfied of the swift action taken by the Japanese government.” Philippine environmental ists earlier urged Japan to take the garbage back, saying the illegal shipment violated the convention preventing the dumping of garbage in another country. Japan sent a fact-finding mission to the Philippines on Dec. 19 to determine the obligations and liabilities of the companies involved in the shipment of waste from Japan. The team, wearing rubber gloves and masks, began inspections Tuesday on 45 of the 122 garbage-filled containers, sorting through almost 3,000 giant garbage bags. They found that the containers were indeed stuffed with adult diapers, candy wrappers, aluminum foil, rubber shoe soles, sanitary napkins, plastic bags and noodle cups bearing Japanese characters. They also found some of the garbage bags contained hospital waste, including dispos able plastic syringes and rubber surgical gloves. Masafumi Ishii, an official from the Foreign Ministry who led the team, confirmed that the garbage-filled containers indeed came from Japan. The shipment, certified in Japan by the inspection firm Societe Generale de Surveillance of being 80 percent paper and 20 percent plastic, arrived in Manila on July 22. Customs officers discovered the waste only after its importer, Sinsei Enterprises Inc., failed to claim the shipment within 30 days as required by law, giving the Bureau of Customs the liberty to open the shipment for inspection. Sinsei has repeatedly claimed it knew nothing about the shipment, saying it was expecting recyclable paper from Nisso.

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