A trash shipment that strained ties between the Philippines and Canada was set to leave the port of Subic at midnight Friday, as the ship tasked to transport over 60 containers of toxic waste back to the North American country arrived at the former US naval base.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, the government’s officer-in-charge while President Rodrigo Duterte is on an official visit to Japan, said the containers were loaded onto the ship starting 5 p.m. Thursday.
The Canadian government will shoulder the estimated shipment cost of P10 million, Guevarra said.
In April, Duterte said he wanted the trash shipment returned to Canada and warned the issue, if unresolved, might spark a “war.”
In Tokyo, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Malacañang is hoping diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Canada will go back to normal.
“Hopefully it’s like that because it [trash] triggered the disruptive relations,” Panelo told reporters while raising the possibility of reinstating the Philippine embassy officials recalled from Canada.
“Well if the reason for the recall was the trash, then if the trash has been brought back, so there’s no more reason. That’s the logic,” the spokesman said.
Ties between the Ottawa and Manila also soured after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in 2017, raised concerns over Duterte’s drug war. Last year, the President canceled a $233-million military chopper deal with Canada.
As the country bid goodbye to the Canadian waste, six years after it was discovered in local ports, environmental groups called on the Duterte administration to ban all waste imports in the Philippines and ratify the Basel Ban Amendment.
This follows the discovery of several other waste shipments to the Philippines from South Korea in 2018 and Australia and Hong Kong, which were discovered last week.
From 2013 to 2014, 103 shipping containers from Canada were intercepted in the Port of Manila containing mixed wastes, including non-recyclable plastic, waste paper, household waste, electronic wastes, and used adult diapers, the groups said in a statement.
These materials are classified as hazardous, based on the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste and Control Act of 1990 or Republic Act 6969, they noted.
“Moreover, the importation of the shipment violates the Basel Convention, as the contents of the cargo vans were misdeclared as ‘recyclable’,” the statement added.
The groups, including Ecowaste Coalition, Greenpeace Philippines, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, BAN Toxics, and the global Break Free from Plastic movement, reiterated their call for the Philippine government to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits the import of all waste for any reason, including “recycling.”
While the return of Canada’s waste is a positive development, they noted that only over half, or 69 containers, of the original waste is being shipped back.
Twenty-six containers were already landfilled in the Philippines at the time when Canada disowned responsibility for the shipment, while the other eight containers were also disposed of locally, they said.
Aside from the controversial Canadian waste, shipments containing garbage from South Korea were discovered in October last year.
After campaigns from environmental groups in both the Philippines and South Korea, the Philippine government and its South Korean counterparts agreed to ship back part of the waste shipment in January.
The remaining 5,176.9 metric tons of waste are still in Misamis Oriental, awaiting repatriation.
In May 2019, the entry of wastes coming from Australia and Hong Kong in Mindanao Container Terminal became public.
Ever since China closed its doors to waste importation in January 2018, Southeast Asian countries have been the destination of waste exports from developed countries, the groups noted.
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