Palace rejects Canada timeline for trash return
Malacañang on Thursday rejected Canada’s offer to take back “by the end of June” the tons of trash it illegally shipped to the country years ago and said the Philippines could not wait that long.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said he did not expect President Duterte to agree to Canada’s gesture.
“They said [the removal of the trash] will take until the end of June. The President will not agree to that. I understand from [Finance] Secretary [Carlos] Dominguez that it will be sent back [to Canada] soon,” Panelo said at a press briefing.
“I don’t know how [soon]. It could be this week or [the] week after. Definitely, not [by] the end of June. We don’t want that, that’s too long,” he added.
The Palace reacted to the statement of Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna that Ottawa would take back the garbage “by the end of June.”
McKenna said the Canadian government had awarded a contract to French shipping giant Bollore Logistics for the return of 69 containers filled with electronic and household waste, including plastic bottles and bags, newspapers and diapers.
Two containers were impounded at Manila International Container Terminal while the rest were moved to a secluded yard at Subic Bay International Terminal Corp., according to the Bureau of Customs.
McKenna said the company would begin preparation for the shipping in the coming days as the waste must be safely treated to meet Canadian safety and health requirements.
On Wednesday, Panelo said Duterte had ordered officials to ship back the trash to Canada immediately even if the Philippines shouldered the cost.
He said the President was “so upset” about Ottawa’s “inordinate delay” in taking back the trash and ordered the hiring of a private shipping company to return the trash to Canadian territory.
“If Canada will not accept [its] trash, we will leave the same within its territorial waters or 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometers) out to sea from the baseline of any of [its] country’s shores,” Panelo said.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. last week recalled the Philippine ambassador and consuls in Canada over Ottawa’s failure to comply with Duterte’s May 15 deadline to take back the garbage.
The President also warned that Manila may cut diplomatic ties with Canada.
Offer deemed too late
Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition, said Canada’s latest offer was “way too late for the unwanted garbage to leave our land.”
The environmental group has been at the forefront of protests demanding that Canada take back the trash.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday said Ottawa was working with Philippine officials to resolve the problem and hoped to strike a resolution quickly, though he gave no time frame.
“This is a situation that is unacceptable and has gone on too long,” Trudeau said.
McKenna said the Canadian government would hold the responsible parties to account, including the company that exported the garbage to the Philippines. She identified the exporter as Chronic Inc., a company based in Whitby, Ontario.
‘As quickly as we can’
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday said she spoke with Locsin last week to reiterate “Canada’s firm commitment” to promptly repatriate the waste.
“I think we have taken a big step with the announcement today and we are moving as quickly as we can, bearing in mind the need to take due care to get this resolved once and for all,” Freeland said.
A total of 103 containers of Canadian trash arrived in the Philippines in batches in 2013 and 2014. The contents of 34 containers were later emptied in a landfill in Capas, Tarlac province.
Also on Thursday, Panelo said the Palace was “offended” after seven containers of shredded municipal waste imported from Australia were intercepted by the customs bureau in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.
“We are offended by that. We will not allow it. We’ll send them back,” Panelo said.
According to customs officials at Mindanao Container Terminal, Holcim Philippines Inc. was the consignee of the shipment. —WITH REPORTS FROM JEROME ANING, TONETTE OREJAS, JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT, TINA G. SANTOS AND AP
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