Canada to remove rubbish from Philippines by end of June

Announcement comes on the heels of a threat made by Philippine government to dump the waste into Canadian waters.

    Environmentalists stage a protest outside the Canadian Embassy in Manila [Bullit Marquez/AP Photo]
    Environmentalists stage a protest outside the Canadian Embassy in Manila [Bullit Marquez/AP Photo]

    The Canadian government says it has hired a shipping company to finally remove truckloads of rotting rubbish shipped to the Philippines years ago.

    Relations between the two countries have been deteriorating since a Canadian company sent scores of containers filled with household waste and electronic garbage to Philippine ports in 2013 and 2014.

    The row escalated last week when the Philippines announced it was pulling its ambassador and consuls from Canada, saying Ottawa had missed a May 15 deadline to take back the containers. 

    In a statement on Wednesday, Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the government had awarded a contract to shipping giant Bollore Logistics Canada to bring back the rubbish.

    "The company will begin preparation for shipping in the coming days. 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 statement added.

    The rubbish is expected to be back in Canada by the end of summer.

    Earlier on Wednesday, a spokesman for Rodrigo Duterte held a news conference to announce that the Philippine president had ordered officials to look for a private shipping company to transport the waste to Canadian territory.

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    "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," Salvador Panelo said.

    "The president's stance is as principled as it is uncompromising: The Philippines as an independent sovereign nation must not be treated as trash by other foreign nations."

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that Canada had been working hard with Philippine officials to resolve the problem and hoped to strike a resolution quickly, without, however, giving a time frame.

    In 2017, Trudeau said legal issues preventing the return of the garbage to Canada had been resolved.

    "This is a situation that is unacceptable and has gone on too long," Trudeau said on Wednesday.

    Canada is also looking at ways to hold the responsible parties to account.

    'Irritant issue'

    At least 103 containers of household trash, including plastic bottles and bags, newspapers and diapers, were shipped in batches from Canada to the Philippines from 2013 to 2014. Thirty-four were already dealt with by Filipino authorities. Most of the other 69 containers are in two ports in the capital, Manila, and northern Subic Freeport, sparking protests from environmental activists.

    Philippine officials say all the containers were falsely declared by a private firm as recyclable plastic scraps and asked Canada to take back the garbage.

    "This has been quite an irritant for both sides," Al Jazeera's Jamela Alindogan, reporting from Manila, said.

    "With the new commitment of the Canadian government to resolve this issue, they hope that this tension between the two countries will be resolved soon as well."

    Duterte raised the issue in a speech last month while officials from both countries were already discussing a resolution. The president said he was ready to "declare war" against Canada over the issue.

    Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she hoped her government's move would calm the matter.

    "I think we have taken a big step with the announcement today and we are moving as quickly as we can, bearing in mind, you know, the need to take due care to get this resolved once and for all," she said on Wednesday.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies