Canada disappointed over Philippines envoy’s recall

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Canada disappointed over Philippines envoy�s recall
Buldozzer level up the 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

MANILA, Philippines — While Canada has expressed disappointment over the Philippines’ decision to recall its top diplomats over a six-year-old garbage row, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said from Paris on Thursday his administration is “working closely” with Philippine authorities “to get to a resolution shortly.”

Ambassador Petronila Garcia arrived in Manila yesterday, a day after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. recalled her and other Philippine diplomats to protest Canada’s failure to take back some 2,000 tons of Canadian garbage on or before the May 15 deadline set by President Duterte. Garcia arrived on Philippine Airlines Flight 119.

“Canada is disappointed by this decision to recall the Philippines ambassador and consuls general,” Brittany Fletcher, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson, said in a statement.

“However, we will continue to closely engage with the Philippines to ensure a swift resolution of this important issue,” Fletcher said.

She said Canada has repeatedly conveyed to the Philippine government its commitment to promptly ship Canadian waste out of the country.

“We remain committed to finalizing these arrangements for the return of the waste to Canada,” she said.

Fletcher said Canada values its deep and longstanding relationship with the Philippines.

In a Twitter post on Thursday, Locsin announced the recall of the country’s envoy and consuls in Canada.

A CNN report, which presented Trudeau’s statement, said non-profit Pacific Center for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL) named Canadian company Chronic Inc. and its Philippine-based consignees as responsible for transporting 103 containers of waste to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014.

“We shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage is ship-bound there,” Locsin said.

The DFA chief claimed Canada did not send a representative to a meeting on the issue at the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

At Malacañang yesterday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said all Trudeau has to do to settle the issue is to order the immediate return of the garbage shipment.

He added there is no need for UN intervention as suggested by some quarters.

The Philippines and Canada are signatories to the Basel Convention of 1989, which aims to reduce the movement of hazardous wastes between nations.

Panelo said the recall of Philippine diplomats should send a strong signal to Canada that President Duterte is dead serious about getting the Canadian garbage out of the country.

Meanwhile, senators have expressed support for the administration’s move to recall the country’s diplomats in Canada.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the President is the sole architect of the country’s foreign policy.

“He (President) is the only pilot. No one enters the cockpit to tell the pilot what to do. All doubts are resolved in his favor. The Senate partners only in treaties,” Sotto said in a Twitter post.

Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, also commended the government’s strong resolve to send back the trash shipment.

“It is unacceptable that six years since these containers were shipped to our shores and that despite assurances from the Canadian government to HELP remove them, their waste is still here, posing significant health and environment risks in our country,” Legarda said in a statement.

The senator authored the country’s landmark laws on environment, such as the Ecological Solid Waste Management (ESWM) Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act.

“Many ecotourism areas in our country are undergoing major rehabilitation from environmental degradation, and this strong resolve against Canada’s waste dump is another push towards ensuring the protection of our environment, natural resources and health,” she said.

She said each government is accountable for enforcing its own solid waste management policies, adding that Philippine communities that are faithfully implementing the ESWM have reported up to 80 percent waste diversion rate, which means that instead of being brought to landfills, waste is either recycled or composted.

She said the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal should be respected and enforced.

“This is a reminder to other countries that the Philippines is not their dumping site. Solid waste management should be enforced within each country and within their communities,” she said.

“With our strong political will and even stronger cooperation among groups and advocates, we will remain vigilant in safeguarding any threats against our environment and health,” she said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Locsin’s move was the right thing to do under prevailing circumstances.

“National dignity is part and parcel of diplomacy. To allow the country to be a regular dumping ground of toxic garbage by another country smacks of arrogance, aside from the health hazards that it brings to our people,” Lacson said.

In a Twitter post, the senator said: “Let’s find out who facilitated so we can dump them at sea halfway to Canada.”

The BOC, through spokesman Erastus Sandino Austria, said that as agreed upon by the Interagency Committee on Canada Waste, it’s the DFA that is tasked to respond to queries regarding the issue. – With Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero, Evelyn Macairan, Rudy Santos

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