Canada Agrees to Take Back Trash Sent to Philippines Years Ago
MANILA — The Canadian government said on Wednesday that it would take back tons of garbage sent to the Philippines several years ago, after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered that it be returned immediately.
In a statement, Catherine McKenna, the Canadian minister of environment and climate change, said a Canadian company had been awarded a contract to repatriate the trash.
“Canada values its deep and longstanding relationship with the Philippines and has been working closely with Filipino authorities to find a solution that is mutually acceptable,” she said.
The company, Bolloré Logistics Canada, is to begin preparations for shipping in the coming days, with the removal expected to be completed by the end of June, the Canadian government said. Canada is paying all the costs.
In 2013 and 2014, more than 100 shipping containers were delivered to the Philippines from Canada by a private Canadian company. Though they were marked as recyclable materials, they contained some 2,500 tons of household waste, including plastic bottles and used adult diapers. Some of the containers have been sitting in the town of Capas, north of Manila.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr. Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said the president had ordered officials to ship the trash back to Canada at the Philippines’ expense.
“We are extremely disappointed with Canada’s neither-here-nor-there pronouncements on the matter,” Mr. Panelo said. “Obviously, Canada is not taking this issue nor our country seriously. The Filipino people are gravely insulted about Canada’s treating this country as a dump site.”
Mr. Panelo said Mr. Duterte was “so upset about the inordinate delay.”
“The Philippines is an independent sovereign nation and must not be treated as trash by other foreign nations,” Mr. Panelo said. “We hope this message resonates well with other countries of the world.”
Last week, Mr. Duterte recalled his country’s ambassador to Canada and other diplomats after it missed a May 15 deadline to remove the containers. The Philippine government also said that officials from the Canadian Embassy had failed to attend a planned meeting.
Canada insisted on Wednesday that it was maintaining discussions with Filipino officials, saying that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland had spoken with her Philippine counterpart, Teodoro Locsin, to “reiterate Canada’s firm commitment to promptly repatriate the waste to Canada.”
Ms. McKenna added that Canada had changed its environmental laws to prevent similar situations in the future and was “looking at ways to hold the responsible parties to account.”
BAN Toxics, a local environmental group, accused Canada of being noncommittal on the issue, arguing that the trash had been rotting in the Philippines for years.
“Statements from the Canadian government saying that there are policy loopholes on their side are indicators of their empty promise to ship the smuggled trash back to their origin,” the group said in a statement. “The wound of disrespect has never healed.”
Canada’s slow response, it said, was doubly offensive because it was a signatory to the Basel Convention, an international treaty designed to limit the transfer of hazardous waste to developing countries from wealthier ones.
“Canada has victimized us and disregarded our right as a party to the convention the moment they illegally shipped their wastes to our lands,” the group said.