Philippines sets deadline for Canada to take back trash

New York Times

Posted at May 09 2019 09:59 AM

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has given Canada a May 15 deadline to take back tons of trash mistakenly sent to the Philippines several years ago, saying he will ship the garbage back if the Canadians do not comply.

“If they cannot get that, then we will be shipping them out and throw them to the shores or beaches of Canada,” a presidential spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said in a statement.

The trash arrived in 2013 and 2014 in more than 100 containers delivered from Canada by a private Canadian company and marked as recyclable scrap. But dozens of the containers held used adult diapers, household garbage, plastic bags and other waste.

The Canadian government has said it is working on resolving the dispute. It amended environmental laws in 2016 to set liability for private companies in such cases and to compel them to take back the waste.

Adam Austen, a spokesman for Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said in an emailed statement Wednesday that the country remained committed to taking back the trash for disposal.

“We have made an offer to repatriate this Canadian waste and continue to be closely engaged with the Philippines to resolve the outstanding details,” he wrote, “to ensure the shipment’s return to Canada as quickly as possible.”

Canadian officials said Canada had also offered to pay for the shipping costs to return the waste.

Still, the case in the Philippines has been in limbo as officials discussed precise ways to pay for and dispose of the trash, which has been stored at a private landfill north of Manila.

In a meeting with officials last month, Duterte threatened to dump the trash in Canada.

“Let’s quarrel with Canada. I will declare war against them,” Duterte said. “Load that up on a ship and I will advise Canada that your garbage is on the way. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to.”

The Philippine foreign minister, Teodoro Locsin, said the president’s deadline was final. Duterte “expects the garbage to be seaborne by May 15,” Locsin said on Twitter.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a nonprofit in the Philippines, said it would welcome Canada’s taking back the garbage.

“Our nation’s persistence to get the garbage returned to the ‘state of export’ has raised national as well as global awareness about the responsibility of waste-exporting countries to respect the rights of people in developing countries,” said Aileen Lucero, the national coordinator for the coalition.