Philippines withdraws top diplomats from Canada in row over rubbish containers


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.

From the perspective of Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, decisions would have been made faster in the Canadian government if they had President Rodrigo Duterte as its leader.

The Canadian government took the responsibility of shipping the trash back, but failed to meet the deadline. 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.

In a statement, Canada's foreign ministry said it was "disappointed", but would continue to engage to resolve the issue. It said it was aware of a Philippine court ruling that ordered a private importer to ship the waste back to Canada.

This after Canada missed a May 15 deadline to retrieve the garbage from the Philippines.

The shipments were labeled as "recyclable plastic materials", but the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources subsequently discovered that they contained bottles, adult diapers, kitchen refuse and other household trash.

Instead, the garbage continued to languish at a private landfill near Manila, where it has been reeking ever since, much to the chagrin of environmentalists and public health activists who have often staged protests outside Canada's embassy there.

Back in April, the president of the Philippines threatened war with Canada, adding, he would personally escort the containers back to the North American country.

"I am having problems with fellow officials hungry [to] emigrate to Canada [and] so want to keep friendly relations at the expense of defying Duterte and keeping Canadian garbage here", he said. "Eat it if you want to".

A group of officials from both sides "is examining the full spectrum of issues related to the removal of the waste with a view to a timely resolution", the embassy said in a statement.

Canada tried to either convince the Philippines to dispose of the trash locally or find another nearby country in Asia willing to take it, rather than have it shipped all the way back to Vancouver.

Canada earlier affirmed its commitment to take back the garbage.

Philippine Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrerro has said " bureaucratic red tape" in Canada slowed the return of the rest.

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Manila in 2015, shortly after he took office, he promised that a "Canadian solution" was in the works and that he would make legislative changes to ensure that such a thing could not happen again. Last year, Duterte canceled the military's $235-million contract to buy 16 military helicopters from a Canada-based manufacturer after Ottawa put the deal under review because of the President's human rights record.



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