Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Group backs stringent BOC inspection of Christmas holiday imports

A non-government environmental organization backed a recent action by the customs authorities to foil probable smuggling of toxic and hazardous goods into the country as Christmas comes closer.

The EcoWaste Coalition welcomed the move by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) at the Manila International Container Port and Port of Manila to defer the release of 15 container vans loaded with imported plastic toys, firecrackers and other goods from China and Hong Kong until after rigorous examination.

Reports quoted Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez as saying “we have to keep a more vigilant watch and conduct thorough inspection of all vans to ensure the safety of the consuming public during the holidays,” while Customs Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Group Filomeno Vicencio, Jr. described their action “as part of the risk management measures of the Bureau.”

“We support the more careful inspection of these Christmas shipments to ensure that dangerous goods such as toxic toys, substandard lights and perilous firecrackers are not put up for sale in the local market,” said Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“The stringent scrutiny by our customs officers is needed to thwart any attempts by crooked traders to make profits from the sale of dangerous products that could jeopardize public health and safety,” he added.

To safeguard the health of toy-loving children, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the BOC to publish the brand names, photos and other product specifications and the test results of toys that the Bureau had rejected due to high levels of lead and other harmful chemicals.

The BOC supposedly examines toy shipments, obtaining samples of products from the lot and sending the samples to an independent private laboratory for analysis. Toys that failed the tests are issued warrant of seizure and detention.

“We urge the BOC to make these toxic toys known to the consumers through the BOC website and the popular media in order to inform and protect the public, especially the children,” stated Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats)

Toys containing lead and lead-based paint, Dizon pointed out, are dangerous because they expose children to this brain-damaging chemical through their common hand-to-mouth activity.

Health experts believe there is no defined safe level for lead as they can be toxic to children even at low levels.

With respect to firecrackers, the EcoWaste Coalition sought the help of BOC in strictly enforcing Section 6 of Republic Act 7183, which prohibits the importation of finished firecrackers and fireworks.

Additionally, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the BOC to strictly examine food imports such as typical holiday fruits and delicacies, ensuring they do not contain hazardous levels of pesticide residues and other contaminants.


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