Hours after an angry Philippine president ordered his government to ship back tons of Canadian trash dumped on local shores, Ottawa said Thursday it had hired a company to remove the garbage.
The Canadian government has awarded a contract to Balloré Logistics Canada to transport the waste safely back to the North American country, and the garbage is expected to be out of the Philippines by June, said Catherine McKenna, Ottawa’s environment minister.
She made the announcement a week after Canada missed a May 15 deadline set by Manila for taking back the garbage, which was shipped to the Philippines several years ago.
“Canada values its deep and longstanding relationship with the Philippines and continues to work with that country to ensure a swift resolution to this important issue of promptly repatriating waste exported to the Philippines by a Canadian company,” McKenna said in a statement. “Canada is pleased to announce that it has awarded a contract to bring the waste back promptly and to ensure its safe and environmentally sound disposal.”
Ottawa will also cover the costs of repatriating the trash, she said.
The 2,500 tons of waste, which includes common household items such as plastic materials and adult diapers, are in 100 shipping containers located at a dumpsite north of Manila. The Canadian government contended that the garbage was mistakenly shipped here between 2013 and 2014 and mislabeled as recyclable materials.
The Canadian government had amended its own regulations to “prevent this from happening again” as it looked for ways to penalize the parties, McKenna emphasized. While Canadian regulations had allowed the export of such wastes under an old law, the Philippines had already banned the transboundary movement of such garbage, she said.
Canada had amended its laws to apply to waste, which is controlled or prohibited in the country of destination, so that the “shipment sent to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014 would be prohibited today,” according to McKenna.
Her statement came out hours after Salvador Panelo, the spokesman for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, told reporters that Duterte had ordered his officials to look for a shipping firm that would haul the trash back to Canada’s shores at Manila’s expense.
Panelo said Canada had displayed bad faith when it asked for an extension after missing Duterte’s May 15 deadline. Ottawa’s failure to meet the deadline led to Manila recalling its ambassador and consuls to Canada on May 16.
“Obviously, Canada is not taking this issue nor our country seriously. The Filipino people are gravely insulted about Canada treating this country as a dumpsite,” Panelo said Wednesday.
But Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, reiterated her government’s commitment to resolve the trash issue as quickly as possible. And, contrary to reports, she said she was communicating with her Filipino counterpart, Teodoro Locsin, about the matter.
Meanwhile, as the Canadian trash issue played out in the open, Philippine authorities have said that they have intercepted seven containers filled with waste shipment from Australia, at the Mindanao Container Terminal in the southern town of Tagoloan, according to a local broadcaster, GMA Television.
The consignee of the shipment, cement firm Holcim Philippines, had explained that the shipment consisted of processed engineered fuel and municipal waste made from processed trash. This was to be used for alternative fuel sources at the plant, the report said.
Joseph Jubelag contributed to this report from General Santos City, Philippines.