Filipino President Duterte Threatens ‘War’ if Canada Does Not Take Trash Back

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in Quezon City, Philippines, on Oct. 26, 2017. Duterte is threatening to sail to Canada soon to return tonnes of trash. (Reuters/Dondi Tawatao)
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in Quezon City, Philippines, on Oct. 26, 2017. Duterte is threatening to sail to Canada soon to return tonnes of trash. (Reuters/Dondi Tawatao)
By Margaret Wollensak

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte threatened Tuesday to set sail to Canada next week to return garbage dumped in the Philippines several years ago.

“I want a boat prepared. I’ll give a warning to Canada maybe next week that they better pull that thing out or I will set sail to Canada and dump the trash there,” Duterte said, according Philippine News Agency, the government’s online newswire service.

A total of 103 container vans labelled “plastics” from Canada arrived at a Manila port during 2013 and 2014 for recycling. However, the containers were actually filled with Canadian household waste, including adult diapers, electronic garbage, and non-recyclable plastics.

The containers, which were shipped by a private company, have been rotting in the port for nearly six years now.

Duterte also reportedly asked Philippines Customs Commissioner Rey Guerrero to prohibit Canada from sending more trash to the country, and even threatened to declare war against Canada over the matter.

“Let’s fight with Canada. We’ll declare war against them. We can handle them. I’ll return the trash. Just wait and see,” he said.

“Load the containers to a ship, and I will advise Canada that your garbage is on the way. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to,” he added.

Duterte is currently in Beijing for an upcoming trade forum that ends April 27.

Canada has been trying to convince the Philippines to dispose of the garbage, even though in 2016 a Filipino court ordered that the trash be returned to Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the garbage issue in both 2015 and 2017 when he visited the Philippines. On his first visit there, he reportedly said that Canada had no legal means to force the company that shipped the waste to bring it back. On his last visit to the Philippines, he said Canada was working on a solution, and that it was “theoretically” possible for Canada to take the trash back.

The Canadian government’s response to Duterte’s statements was that they will continue, as they have been, towards a solution, though no particular details of a solution were given.

“Canada is strongly committed to collaborating with the Philippines government to resolve this issue and is aware of the court decision ordering the importer to ship the material back to Canada,” a spokesperson from Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s office said in an emailed statement.

“Currently a joint technical working group, consisting of officials from both countries, is examining the full spectrum of issues related to the removal of waste with a view to a timely resolution.”

In 2018, both nations formed a working group of officials to find a solution, but still nothing has been resolved.

The spokesperson also mentioned a 2016 change in regulations around hazardous waste shipments to prevent such an event from happening again. The change means Canadian companies will need to get approval to ship waste deemed hazardous by the destination country, even if Canadian officials don’t deem it hazardous.

According to the Canadian Press, a Canadian official speaking on condition of anonymity said that there are “meaningful conversations” taking place between officials from both countries, and that Canada will likely bring the containers back.

With files from the Canadian Press.

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