Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo dismissed the announcement of Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna that Ottawa awarded a contract to Bolloré Logistics Canada to safely bring the waste back to Canada as soon as possible.
Philippines losing patience on Canada garbage
Evelyn Macairan, Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang maintained yesterday it has lost patience with Canada and rejected anew Ottawa’s assurance that it would get back the tons of garbage dumped in the country several years ago.

And while the issue on trash from Canada remains unresolved, garbage from South Korea and Hong Kong also came into the country and would have to be shipped out.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo dismissed the announcement of Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna that Ottawa awarded a contract to Bolloré Logistics Canada to safely bring the waste back to Canada as soon as possible.

“Hindi ba ang sabi nila (Didn’t they say) it will take about end of June pa,” Panelo noted. “The President will not agree to that. And I understand from Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez… that the trash will be sent back the soonest.”

He said Manila would push through with its plan to tap a private contractor to do the job. On Wednesday, Panelo had warned that the government might just dump the trash on Canadian shores.

According to McKenna, preparation for the shipping of the garbage will begin in the coming days and “the removal will be complete by the end of June, as the waste must be safely treated to meet Canadian safety and health requirements.”

McKenna said the costs associated with the preparation, transfer, shipment and disposal of the waste will be assumed by the Canadian government.

“Canada values its deep and longstanding relationship with the Philippines and continues to work with that country to ensure a swift resolution to this important issue of promptly repatriating waste exported to the Philippines by a Canadian company,” the statement said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the two countries have a deep and valued relationship underpinned by the hundreds of thousands of Canadians of Filipino descent. She said the Filipino-Canadian community has made huge contributions to Canada.

In 2016, Canada amended its regulations to prevent future exports of such material without a permit. Canada is also looking at ways to hold the responsible parties to account.

Panelo said he does not see Filipinos in Canada getting affected by the spat over garbage, while Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez expressed hopes that the political issues will not destroy the two countries’ trade relations.

Trash from South Korea, Hong Kong

Meanwhile, the Department of Finance (DOF) said yesterday South Korea committed to take back 5,176.9 metric tons of waste materials illegally imported into the country by the Cebu-based Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corp. last year.

In a report to the DOF, Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said the South Korean government is willing to retrieve the waste should the importer fail to follow the order of re-exportation issued by the Port of Cagayan de Oro.

Guerrero said an initial batch of the waste materials consisting of plastic flakes was shipped back to South Korea in January, while 5,176.9 MT are still stored at the Verde Soko compound within the PHIVIDEC Industrial Authority premises in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

Bureau of Customs-Mindanao International Container Terminal collector John Simon also said yesterday that one container van of e-waste arrived from Hong Kong at their port last February. 

Simon said the container was intended to be a “test case,” meaning “if one container successfully entered the port, there would be 70 other containers that would be delivered to the country.”

He said that the e-waste, such as computer and gadget parts that are grinded, is the worst kind of garbage because it is “hazardous to the people’s health.”

“When they learned that we stopped their one container, they aborted their plan to bring in 70 other container vans into the port,” Simon said.

Do it soonest

Panelo said the Philippines wants the garbage from Canada removed from Philippine shores soonest and “definitely not the end of June.” 

“Ayaw natin ‘yun. Ang tagal tagal na masyado (It’s too long),” Panelo said, noting Duterte is upset and disappointed.

On Wednesday, Panelo said the President is not thinking twice on the plan to dump the waste on Canada’s shores.

“If Canada will not accept their trash, we will leave the same within its territorial waters or 12 nautical miles out to sea from the baseline of any of their country’s shores,” Panelo said.

Asked on the possibility that Canada might use the Basel Convention against the Philippines, Panelo said Manila is not a signatory to the agreement aimed at controlling transboundary movement of hazardous wastes.

But reports said the Philippines became signatory to Basel Convention on March 22, 1989. It was ratified by Manila on Oct. 21, 1993 and came into force on Jan. 19 of the following year.

In a hastily called a press briefing at Malacañang on Wednesday afternoon, Panelo said the expenses for the return of 69 of the 103 container vans of garbage from Canada will be shouldered by the Philippines. 

“We do not mind,” he said.

China’s clearance

As this developed, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said there is a need first to secure clearance from China before shipment of garbage from the Philippines to Canada can be made.

DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said securing clearance from China is one of the reasons why there is a delay in the shipment of trash that originated from Canada.

“We need to go through this process. We just can’t skip it because it is necessary. The tons of garbage can’t be shipped directly to Canada. There will be a stopover in China,” Antiporda said in an interview.

He explained that securing clearance from China is part of the agreement under the Basel Convention that if such type of garbage will be shipped, there is a need to get clearance from the country where it will pass through.

Apart from securing international clearance, Antiporda also cited the need to fumigate the garbage to ensure that there will be no health risks to the crew of the ship and to those who will handle the trash.

Amid Duterte’s frustration over Canada’s delay in taking back its trash, Customs spokesman Erastus Sandino Austria yesterday said that they have completed all the necessary preparations for the return of the tons of garbage. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Rhodina Villanueva, Mary Grace Padin

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