DFA recalls Philippines ambassador over Canada trash
Security supervisor Daniel Tamala surevised the dumping of garbage at Capas Tarlac Landfill in Capas, Tarlac under the management of Metro Clark Waste Management Corporation which allegedly were the garbage coming from Canada was dumped.
Ernie Peñaredondo
DFA recalls Philippines ambassador over Canada trash
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - May 17, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has recalled its ambassador to Canada after the Canadian government failed to meet the May 15 deadline for its retrieval of tons of garbage illegally shipped to the Philippines by a private firm six years ago.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced yesterday on Twitter the recall of Ambassador Petronilla Garcia as well as consuls to set the stage for a “diminished diplomatic presence” in Canada “until its garbage is shipbound there.”

“At midnight last night, letters for the recall of our ambassador and consuls to Canada went out. They are expected here in a day or so,” Locsin tweeted.

“To our posts in Canada: you have your orders. You are recalled. Get the next flight out,” he said. He said the recall was necessary because “Canada missed the May 15 deadline.” The Canadian embassy in Manila declined to comment.

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the recall of the ambassador and the consuls shows President Duterte’s seriousness in compelling Canada to take back its garbage, even at the expense of Manila’s diplomatic relations with Ottawa.

“We are very serious in asking (Canada) to get back their garbage. Otherwise, we’re gonna severe relations with them,” Panelo said.

He also said Duterte knew about Locsin’s move.

“That order of the recall is to persuade them to make it fast. The more they delay, the more personnel will be coming back. I issued a statement that the refusal to bring the garbage back to their shores is disruptive of our diplomatic relations,” he said.

The President’s spokesman, meanwhile, gave assurance the issue won’t affect the lives of Filipino workers in Canada. “I don’t think there will be problem. They are legally working, and Canada also needs our workers,” he said.

 “Whatever the consequence, this government will be protective of the interests of our countrymen in any part of the world,” Panelo said.

Specifically triggering the recall, Locsin pointed out, was Canada’s failure to send a representative to a meeting on the issue at the Bureau of Customs.

“That the government may consider a 2 to 3 week delay DOES NOT EXTEND THE DEADLINE. Our diplomatic presence in Canada shall be de minimis. At the Japanese enthronement ceremony, DOF informed me that Canada did not show up at a meeting with Customs and that was the trigger,” Locsin said.

He accused unnamed “fellow officials” of wanting to maintain friendly relations with Canada even if it would mean defying President Duterte.

“I am having problems with fellow officials hungry to emigrate to Canada so want to keep friendly relations at the expense of defying Duterte and keeping Canadian garbage here,” he said without naming the officials.

“If our officials had done something about it, Canadian garbage would have been long returned to sender,” he said.

Locsin also said the President’s threat of war on Canada should be taken seriously.

“When the President speaks as he did to the extent of ‘declaring war on Canada’ for its garbage here, he is to be taken seriously and not metaphorically; at least I do because I do not think I know better than he does. Some of his officials do,” Locsin said. Last April 23, Duterte threatened to declare war against Canada over the trash shipment.

In response, the Canadian embassy in Manila issued a statement stressing that Ottawa is “strongly committed to collaborating with the Philippine government to resolve the waste issue and it is aware of the court decision ordering the importer to ship the garbage back to Canada.”

In 2016, Canada amended its regulations on hazardous waste shipments to prevent such incidents from happening again.

Senate investigation

Senate President Vicente Sotto III voiced support for the DFA’s recall of the ambassador and the consuls and called for a probe on the local importer or consignee of the trash.

“He (Locsin) has every right to do so. I support the decision,” Sotto told the Kapihan sa Senado forum.

“What should also be investigated is, who’s the importer, or why is there recipient? Why are we not talking about the recipient?” he said.

He said the local contact or consignee must also be held accountable.

Earlier, Panelo said some uncompleted documentation might delay the shipment of the garbage back to Canada for one to three weeks.

“There might be a slight delay because of the documentation. If it’s just a slight delay, the President has a reasonable mind. What is important is, they will take back their waste,” Panelo said.

The Philippines will not hesitate to impose necessary penalties on the contractor or whoever was responsible for the shipment of the trash from Canada, the Palace official said.

He said Canada has already made a commitment to take back the trash. “Since they already committed to it, that’s the difference now, unlike before when they refused to take it back,” Panelo added.

The 103 containers of garbage – sent between 2013 and 2014 and mislabeled as recyclable plastic scraps – consisted largely of kitchen scraps and diapers as well as electronic waste. Part of the trash, contained in 26 containers, was buried in a Tarlac landfill.

Last month, Duterte threatened to “declare war” against Canada over the garbage issue.

“I will declare war against them. I will advise Canada that your garbage is on the way. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to. Your garbage is coming home,” the President said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been quizzed about the garbage issue during his visits to the country but gave no satisfactory answer.

In 2017, he said it was “theoretically possible for Canada to deal with the trash.”

Last week, Panelo announced that Canada had agreed to shoulder the expenses of shipping out the containers of trash.

“The DFA and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources noted that the Canadian government is committed to shouldering all the expenses to ship out all the 69 waste containers,” Panelo said in a statement.

Duterte had declared in a Cabinet meeting early this month that Manila would no longer accept garbage shipments from other countries.

“The President is firm that we are not garbage collectors, thus he ordered that the Philippines will no longer accept any waste from any country,” Panelo said.

FOI tapped

Meanwhile, environmental group EcoWaste Coalition has filed a request under the government’s Freedom of Information program to obtain facts related to the local disposal of eight of the 103 containers of trash from Canada.

Aileen Lucero, the group’s national coordinator, yesterday filed the request after getting confirmation from the BOC that 34 of the 103 containers have already been disposed of locally, and that only 69 containers would be shipped back to Canada. – With Christina Mendez, Rhodina Villanueva, Paolo Romero

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