President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered officials to immediately send back to Canada trash it had shipped for dumping in the Philippines several years ago, his spokesman said Wednesday, a week after Ottawa missed Manila’s deadline for removing the garbage.
The latest Philippine move in the bilateral row followed the Duterte government’s decision on May 16 to recall its ambassador and consuls to Canada after the deadline expired, and as Southeast Asian countries struggle to deal with increased dumping of waste from industrialized nations.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is so upset about the inordinate delay of Canada in shipping back its containers of garbage. We are extremely disappointed with Canada’s neither-here-nor-there pronouncements on the matter,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“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,” he said.
Panelo said Duterte had instructed officials to find a private shipping firm to return the trash to Canada at Manila’s expense. If the Canadian government refused to receive the trash, “we will leave the same within the territorial waters or 12 nautical miles out to sea” from its shores, Panelo said.
“The Philippines is an independent sovereign nation and must not be treated as trash by other foreign nations. We hope this message resonates well with other countries of the world,” Panelo said.
Countries in Southeast Asia have seen a spike in imports of mainly plastic waste from industrialized countries after China, in 2018, stopped importing such refuse for recycling to cut down on pollution.
Last week, Malaysia joined the Philippines in threatening to send back shipments of unwanted waste from industrialized nations.
“We do not want to be called the world’s dumping ground,” Malaysian Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin told a news conference on May 17. “We will send the waste back to the country of origin.”
From 2013 to 2014, more than 100 shipping containers filled with about 2,500 tons of household waste including plastic bottles, bags and used adult diapers were shipped to Manila and mislabeled as recyclable materials.
At least 26 of the shipping containers were dumped in a private landfill in Capas town in Tarlac province, north of Manila, according to Philippine lawmakers.
The controversy burst into the open last month when Duterte threatened to set sail to Canada and personally dump the trash.
Canadian officials had asked for an extension of between two and three weeks, but apparently showed bad faith because no diplomat had been sent to a scheduled meeting to address the issue, according to Filipino officials.
The Canadian embassy in Manila could not be reached for a response to Duterte’s latest comments.
Last week, the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was seeking a quick resolution.
“We will continue to closely engage with the Philippines to ensure a swift resolution of this important issue,” ministry spokesman Guillaume Bérubé said in a statement e-mailed to BenarNews.
“Canada has repeatedly conveyed to the Philippine government its commitment to promptly ship and dispose of the Canadian waste in the Philippines. We remain committed to finalizing these arrangements for the return of the waste to Canada.”