A cargo ship contracted by the Canadian government docked in the Philippine port of Subic on Thursday and loaded tons of garbage to transport back to Canada, officials said, signaling an imminent end to a dispute over the trash.
Filipino Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin posted images on Twitter late Thursday showing steel containers apparently filled with waste being loaded onto the MV Bavaria at the port, a former U.S. Naval base. Officials said the ship was to leave port late on Thursday evening or early Friday.
“Going … going … going,” Locsin posted under one of the images.
Subic administrator Wilma Eisma said the ship would sail to Taiwan before sailing to Canada with its cargo.
“It will reach Vancouver in about 20 days. So give or take, if it is now May 30, it will reach Vancouver around June 22,” she told reporters.
The 2,500 tons of waste, which includes common household items such as plastic and adult diapers, were in 100 shipping containers kept at a dumpsite north of Manila. The Canadian government said the garbage was shipped to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014, but mislabeled as recyclable material.
Before Canada agreed to contract a ship to remove the trash, President Rodrigo Duterte warned Ottawa that he would ship the waste back personally and dump it on Canadian shores. On May 16, a day after Ottawa missed a deadline set by Manila for removing the garbage, Duterte’s government recalled its ambassador and consuls to Canada.
The waste from Canada put a spotlight on how developed countries are exploiting weak national regulations and loopholes in international treaties to dump garbage here, according to Filipino environmentalists who traveled to Subic on Thursday.
In addition to the Canadian waste, shipments from Australia, South Korea and China have been discovered in the Philippines.
“The fact that it took five years before Canada acknowledged responsibility for the shipment underlines the helplessness of developed countries when governments of importing countries do not cooperate,” said Lea Guerrero, the country director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
Imposing a ban or shutting the doors to all waste shipments from abroad, as well as ratifying the amendments to the Basel Convention “will send a strong message that the Philippines is not a dumping ground,” she said.
“The waste shipments that have been exposed in recent years are likely only the tip of the iceberg,” Guerrero said. “It is highly probable that many more waste shipments have entered the country undetected, or under false declarations or questions circumstances.”
The Basel Convention, to which the Philippines and Canada are signatories, aims to protect smaller countries from the dumping of hazardous waste by rich countries. Manila has not ratified amendments that would strengthen the treaty.
Last week, Ottawa awarded a contract to Belloré Logistics Canada to remove the garbage from the Philippines, and announced it was amending regulations to prevent the same incident from happening again.