Unreturned trash: Canada airs ‘disappointment’ over recall of Philippine diplomats
The Canadian government on Friday expressed disappointment over the Duterte administration’s recall of the Philippine ambassador and consuls due to Ottawa’s failure to comply with the May 15 deadline to take back tons of Canadian trash that were shipped to Manila in 2013-2014.
In a statement, Brittany Fletcher, spokesperson for Canada’s Global Affairs Office, said that despite the Philippines’ diplomatic move, Ottawa remained committed to finalizing the arrangements for the return of the waste to Canada.
“Canada is disappointed by this decision to recall the Philippines’ ambassador and consuls general. However, we will continue to engage with the Philippines to ensure a swift resolution of this important issue,” Fletcher said.
“Canada has repeatedly conveyed to the Philippine government its commitment to promptly ship and dispose of the Canadian waste in the Philippines,” she added.
Fletcher said Canada valued “its deep and longstanding relationship with the Philippines.”
Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila Garcia arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport around 3:56 a.m. on Friday from Toronto. She has not issued a statement.
Long time to act
Expected to follow Garcia in the next few days are Deputy Chief of Mission Francisco Noel Fernandez III, consuls Alan Deniega, Eric Aquino, Greg Marie Concha-Marino and Jeffrey Salik and consuls general Ma. Andrelita Austria in Vancouver, Gilberto Asuque in Calgary and Rosalita Prospero in Toronto.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. admitted on Twitter that the Philippine government took a long time to act on the garbage issue, especially in identifying the shipment’s Canadian facilitator and Philippine consignee.
“OK, that is our fault. Since 2017 Canada asked for importers’ IDs; we feigned ignorance; then did nothing more about it,” Locsin said in replying to Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s comments on the issue.
Compared to President Duterte’s strong stand on the return of trash to Canada, Locsin said the previous Aquino administration’s initial response to the issue was slow and not sustained.
“The outrage at first discovery was a dud; illustrating our tendency to ejaculate prematurely on all issues from vital to sexual. Thank God for Duterte,” he said.
Lacson on Friday praised Locsin’s move to recall the Filipino diplomats, saying it was “the right thing to do” since the Philippine government had already warned Canada to take back the trash.
Smacks of arrogance
“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.
Paring down the Philippines’ diplomatic relations with Canada is “not enough,” he said.
The senator said the government should also find out who facilitated the garbage shipment “so we can dump them at sea halfway to Canada.”
Locsin’s recall order to Filipino diplomats is an “unambiguous indicator” of the government’s resolve to return the trash to Canada, EcoWaste Coalition said on Friday.
Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste national coordinator, urged Filipinos who reside in Canada to “rally behind such a diplomatic protest to induce Ottawa to act without delay.”
Philippines not a dumpsite
Locsin’s diplomatic response would not have happened had Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or his predecessor, Stephen Harper, taken back the 103 containers shipped to the Philippines by Ontario-based Chronic Inc. in 2013 and 2014, EcoWaste said.
Lucero said the Duterte administration should send an unequivocal message abroad that the country was not a dumpsite by ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits the transboundary movement of wastes, including hazardous trash, from developed to developing countries.
Former Foreign Undersecretary Lauro Baja Jr. said in a radio interview on Friday that the recall of the Philippine diplomats should not worry Canada since it was an “acceptable diplomatic practice” to express dismay or displeasure.
Baja said Ottawa had been “stonewalling on this issue for some years” and “steps should be taken to prevent further damage” to Philippine-Canadian relations.
He said the issue between the two governments was specific and should not involve Filipinos working in Canada, which he describes as a “responsible nation.”
On Feb. 20, 2014, the Bureau of Customs filed a smuggling complaint against the owner of Chronic Plastics, which imported the waste materials from Canada and misdeclared them as scrap materials for recycling.
Adelfa Eduardo imported 50 containers of the Canadian trash, which was delivered to the company’s warehouse in Canumay, Valenzuela. Chronic Plastics sorts and sells recyclable materials.
Also included in the complaint were the company’s customs brokers, Leonora Flores and Sherjun Saldon.
All three were charged with violating the Toxic Substance and Hazardous Wastes and Nuclear Wastes Control Act as well as the Revised Penal Code.
The Department of Justice approved the filing of smuggling charges against Eduardo, Flores and Saldon in November 2014.
In June 2016, Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Tita Bughao Alisuag directed Chronic Plastics to return the 50 containers of trash to Canada.
According to the customs bureau, two containers of Canadian trash are being held at the Manila International Container Terminal, while 67 others are impounded at the Subic Bay International Terminal Corp.
The Metro Clark Waste Management Corp. accounted for 26 containers of trash that were emptied at its landfill in Capas, Tarlac, in 2015. —WITH REPORTS FROM MARLON, RAMOS AND TONETTE OREJAS
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