Waste Wars: Philippines withdraws diplomats after Canada misses deadline to take back rubbish

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Philippines has withdrawn its diplomats as Canada missed the deadline yesterday to take back tonnes of rubbish that was mistakenly sent to the Philippines via a private recycling company back in 2013.

In 2013, 103 shipping containers that were labeled to contain recyclables, were transported from Vancouver to the capital of Manila, but on their arrival, the Bureau of Customs discovered they were actually filled with household rubbish, plastic bottles, and used adult diapers among other waste.

Justin Trudeau's government changed its environmental laws in 2016 as a result, to set liability for private companies in similar cases.

In an emailed statement to the New York Times, a spokesman for Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Adam Austen said the country remained committed to taking back the rubbish for disposal. Canadian officials said that Canada has also offered to pay for the return of the waste.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said on April 23 that he would give a warning to Canada and "that they better pull that thing out or I will set sail".

Mr Duterte added that if Canada did not remove the waste, the Philippines "will declare war against them" and that the country will load containers and send the waste back to Canada if it did not take it back.

"Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to," added Mr Duterte. "Prepare and celebrate because your garbage is coming home."

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Loscin Jr announced the withdrawal on Twitter, writing: "At midnight last night, letters for the recall of our ambassador and consuls to Canada went out.

"They are expected here in a day or so. Canada missed the May 15 deadline. And we shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage is ship bound there."

Filipino Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said to ABS-CBN:

We are warning them that we're gonna sever diplomatic relations with them...Their refusal to bring back the garbage to their shores is disruptive to our diplomatic relations.

The spokesperson also told local reporters that there may be a slight delay of a few weeks due to processing documents, but that the important thing was that Canada were taking the rubbish.

Loscin Jr warned that just because the government may consider a two or three week delay, it does not mean it will extend the deadline.

"At the Japanese enthronement ceremony, DOF [Department of Finanace] informed me that Canada did not show up at a meeting with Customs and that was the trigger."

“On the issue of garbage from Canada, the DFA and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources noted that the Canadian government is committed to shouldering all the expenses to ship out all the 69 waste containers,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement on May 7, according to Philippine Asian News Today.

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