With trash finally out, PH diplomats returning to Canada
Tons of garbage illegally exported to the country years ago were finally shipped back to Canada on Friday, prompting Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to order the return of Filipino diplomats to their posts in the North American country.
The 69 containers of garbage were loaded overnight onto the MV Bavaria, a Liberia-flagged container ship, at Subic Bay Freeport and began the 23-day voyage to the Canadian city of Vancouver at Ottawa’s expense.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Friday said he hoped ties with Canada would now return to normal.
Locsin said the diplomatic row over the trash had ended and urged both countries to “move on” since “there’s more than garbage between us.”
“The garbage is gone, good riddance,” Locsin posted on Twitter with images of MV Bavaria leaving the port at Subic. “Baaaaaaaaa bye, as we say it.”
To the diplomats he had recalled after Canada missed President Duterte’s May 15 deadline to take back the trash, Locsin said: “To our recalled posts, get your flights back. Thanks and sorry for the trouble you went through to drive home a point.”
No media coverage
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) barred media coverage of the loading of the trash onto the container ship.
“Canada pulled all the stops on this: seamless cooperation by shouldering the expense to ship back the 69 containers of garbage,” Locsin said.
MV Bavaria arrived at Subic at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday and lifted anchor at 7:22 a.m. on Friday, taking more than 10 hours to load the containers.
Ottawa took back the garbage more than two weeks after the President threatened to declare war on Canada and dump the trash in front of its embassy in Manila.
After Canada missed his deadline, Duterte lashed out at Ottawa and directed officials to hire a company that would ship the trash and leave it in Canadian waters.
DENR mulls moratorium
On Friday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it was planning to impose a moratorium on the entry of all recyclable scrap materials into the country.
A DENR administration order issued in 2013 allows the importation of recyclable materials, including scrap metals, plastics and electronics.
Environmental activists gathered in Subic as the containers were being prepared on Thursday, holding banners that said “never again” and “we are not the world’s dump.”
A local court in 2016 declared the importation of 2,400 tons of Canadian trash illegal.
Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda told the Inquirer the proposed moratorium on all waste imports would be discussed by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu with other agencies.
“We will first come up with numbers and check who benefits from these imports, so we can analyze the economic impact of the [moratorium],” Antiporda said.
Basel Ban Amendment
Groups like the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace Philippines have called on the government to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits the export of hazardous wastes, including those intended for recycling, from rich nations to poor countries.
The call to ban the importation of all waste came as the government faced new criticism over the entry of containers of trash from Australia and Hong Kong at the Mindanao International Container Terminal in Misamis Oriental province.
Antiporda said stricter security measures should be put in place so that recyclable wastes could not enter the country and languish in the ports.
“This ordeal has taught us of the urgency of correcting outmoded regulations allowing waste imports into the country under the guise of recycling,” said Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition.
With the return of the 69 containers to Canada, Lucero also urged the Bureau of Customs to disclose information on how the wastes from eight other containers were disposed of.
Customs officials said the contents of 34 of the original 103 containers had been emptied in a landfill of the Metro Clark Waste Management Corp. at Barangay Kalangitan in Capas town, Tarlac, in July 2015.
But the company said it only accounted for 26 containers. —WITH REPORTS FROM JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT AND AFP
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