Canada misses trash shipment deadline; PH recalls Filipino envoys

Evarado Alatorre
May 16, 2019

The Philippines recalled its ambassador and consuls to Canada after Ottawa missed a deadline to take back tons of unwanted trash that has been rotting near Manila for almost six years, the country's foreign secretary said Thursday.

On Thursday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said letters recalling the ambassador and consuls to Canada have been sent and the diplomats would be in Manila "in a day or so".

A very angry President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier threatened to go to war with the North American country for failing to retrieve some 2,000 tons of garbage shipped to the Philippines and remain in the country's ports for six years now.

Ties have been deteriorating since a Canadian company sent about 100 shipping containers that included rotting rubbish wrongly labelled as recyclable to Philippine ports in 2013 and 2014.

Panelo added that he does not expect these developments to affect overseas Filipino workers and migrants in Canada, noting that the Philippine government "will always be protective" of nationals.

"Canada is strongly committed to collaborating with the Government of the Philippines to resolve this issue and is aware of the court decision ordering the importer to ship the material back to Canada", the embassy said.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said yesterday that the government is open to delaying the shipment for one to three weeks because some documents are still being ironed out, as long as Canada pays for the storage fees.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in 2017 that regulations preventing the return of the garbage had been resolved.

"Prepare a grand reception", he said. "Our diplomatic presence in Canada shall be de minimis", he said.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana later downplayed Duterte's war threats, saying the president was using a "figure of speech" to express his displeasure. Officials later set a May 15 deadline for Canada to comply.

At a press conference Wednesday, Panelo told reporters that while there could be a slight delay in Canada taking back its trash, "the important thing is, they are taking it", according to Rappler, a Philippine social news website.

The Canadian Embassy in Manila refused to issue any statement and instead directed all media queries to its home office in Ottawa.

He also said that what triggered him to pull out the Philippine envoys was Canada's alleged failure to meet with Philippine customs officials during the Japanese enthronement ceremony on April 30.

However, Locsin said in another tweet this morning that he does not consider this an extension of the May 15 deadline.

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