Philippines-Canada Relations Fall Out As Ottawa Fails To Retrieve Trash

Philippine embassy in Canada
A diplomatic vehicle leaves the Philippines embassy in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 16, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

The Philippine government retained its firm stance against Ottawa as the Canadian government missed Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte's May 15 deadline to take back tons of trash sent to the country around five years ago.

According to local news outlet ABS-CBN News, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has recalled its consuls to Canada on Thursday following the fallout in settling the garbage dispute with Ottawa. The Philippine ambassador to Canada has also been ordered to return home.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. said in a tweet that the recalled diplomats are expected to be home by Friday. In his Twitter post, Locsin said the Philippine government "shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage ship is bound there."

In another post, Locsin explained that the Canadian delegation that was supposed to meet Filipino officials did not show up to discuss the issue. The meeting was supposed to be held at the Japanese enthronement ceremonies.

On Wednesday, spokesman for Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, Adam Austen, stressed that Ottawa is committed to immediately repatriating the trash mistakenly sent to Philippine shores.

The Philippines-Canada garbage dispute kicked off when Filipino customs investigators discovered 103 containers from Canada that carried used adult diapers and other household trash.

Legal non-profit Pacific Center for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL) said Canada violated the Basel Convention when private company Chronic Inc. shipped waste to the Philippines, CNN reported.

CELL further noted that the container vans were falsely declared as recyclable plastic. Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said further delaying the repatriation of the household trash will prompt the Philippine government to keep recalling representatives to Ottawa.

Global Affairs Canada responded to the Malacańang's decision to recall diplomats. The organization, which handles Canadian diplomatic relations, said it is "disappointed" that the Philippines had to resort to recalling diplomatic representatives.

Duterte previously threatened to wage war on Canada if it continues to delay taking back the trash. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a Paris conference that he is looking forward to a resolution on the issue soon.

According to CBC News, Panelo said the recall is the Philippine government's way of telling Ottawa that it is "very serious" in its request to have the garbage taken back to Canadian shores.

While some of the garbage has been buried in a Tarlac landfill, most of the containers are still in Manila ports. Protests from environmentalists and advocates have been rife since Duterte started taking a firmer stance against the repatriation delay.

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