By Roy Mabasa and Genalyn Kabiling
Canada will complete the removal of the tons of garbage it shipped to Manila six years ago and safely send it back to its port by the end of June, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in Ottawa said in a statement on Thursday.
“The removal will be complete by the end of June, as the waste must be safely treated to meet Canadian safety and health requirements. The safe and environmentally sound disposal in Canada of the waste material will take place before the end of summer 2019. The costs associated with the preparation, transfer, shipment, and disposal of the waste will be assumed by the Government of Canada,” the Canadian government agency said.
The decision to ship back the waste to its shores was made after Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced that her government awarded a contract to Bolloré Logistics Canada to safely bring the waste back to Canada “as soon as possible.”
Accordingly, Bolloré Logistics Canada will begin preparation for the shipping procedure in the coming days.
The Canadian government further said it maintains ongoing discussions with the government of the Philippines to ensure a positive outcome to this issue in a timely fashion.
Last week, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland spoke with Foreign Affairs, Teodoro Locsin, Jr. to reiterate Canada’s firm commitment to promptly repatriate the waste to Canada.
The conversation between the two officials came shortly after Canada missed the May 15 deadline set by President Rodrigo Duterte for Ottawa to ship back the tons of garbage it illegally exported by tranches from 2013 to 2014.
While the export of such material was allowed under Canadian regulations at the time, the import of mixed plastics and household waste is prohibited under Philippines regulations.
In 2016, a Philippine court ordered the importers to ship the containers back to Canada at their expense. The local importer, however, did not comply with the court order and has since ceased to operate.
The garbage issue has created a diplomatic spat between Manila and Ottawa and led to the Philippine government recalling its top diplomats in Canada last month in protest of Canada’s failure to meet the deadline.
Despite the unprecedented recall of the Philippine ambassador and several other consuls in Canada, the government in Ottawa emphasized that it values its deep and longstanding relationship with Manila and will continue to work “to ensure a swift resolution to this important issue of promptly repatriating waste exported to the Philippines by a Canadian company.”
“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. Canada is pleased to announce that it has awarded a contract to bring the waste back promptly and to ensure its safe and environmentally sound disposal. Canada has amended its regulations to prevent this from happening again and is looking at ways to hold the responsible parties to account,” McKenna said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Thursday expressed backing for President Duterte’s move to ship back to Canada the containers of garbage dumped in the Philippines six years ago.
“We support the President’s move on sending back the Canadian trash back to Canada as the Philippines is not a ‘basurahan.’ We are not a trash can where other nations can just wantonly violate our environmental laws and our sovereignty,” the Senate leader said in a statement.
“As one of the principal authors of the Solid Waste Management Act, I am in full support of our President in returning the trash back to Canada and to do the same for any country who does this to us in the future,” he added.
Several senators have also slammed Canada for its inaction on the 69 containers of garbage that have been rotting in the country for six years.
The government is “offended” by the reported dumping of garbage from Australia and will ask the concerned importer to bring the trash back to that country.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the government would not allow the country to be a dumping site of foreign garbage.
“It will be offensive to this government to be [a] recipient of trash. We are offended by that. We will not allow it. We will send them back,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing amid reports of Australian trash shipped to the country.
“We will not allow ourselves to be a dumping ground of trash,” he insisted.
Reports said several containers of garbage from Australia have been recently shipped to the country. The containers, reportedly filled with shredded municipal waste, were reportedly put on hold at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Misamis Oriental.
A cement company reportedly declared the shipment containing processed engineered fuel that will be used for operations.
Panelo said they would ask the private company to ship back the trash to Australia. If the firm misdeclared the shipment to evade customs inspection, he said they would face prosecution.
“We will tell them to take it back,” he said in Filipino.
“In the first place, I am puzzled how they entered the country. We should know if it is garbage or not and immediately stop it unless they are misdeclared to evade detection,” he added. “They should be prosecuted,” he said if the importer committed misdeclaration of shipment.
If there are other foreign imports shipped to the country, Panelo said the government will have the “same procedure, the same stance” to send them back. (With Vanne Elaine P. Terrazola)