PH warns of cutting ties if Canada won't take trash soon

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FILE PHOTO. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) and President Rodrigo Duterte (R)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 25) — Malacañang on Thursday warned that further delay in the retrieval of tons of Canadian garbage that have been staying in Philippine ports since 2013 could sever the ties between the two countries.

“The seventy years of diplomatic relations between the two countries will be put to naught if Canada will not act with dispatch and finality the resolution of this undiplomatic episode to which we take outrage,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who also acts as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, said in a statement.

He said Canada “cannot dilly dally” on retrieving the over 2,000 tons of garbage that were illegally shipped to the Philippines in several batches from 2013 to 2014.

“It must retrieve them pronto or we throw them back to its shores,” he added, echoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier warning.

In a speech on Tuesday, Duterte gave Canada one week to take the trash back or he would personally dump the garbage there. He also threatened to go to war against the North American country if it would not take immediate action.

But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a separate statement on Thursday clarified that the President's threat should not be taken literally.

"Figure of speech lang 'yan to dramatize his extreme displeasure." he said.

But in response to the President's words, the Canadian Embassy in the Philippines said they are "strongly committed” to shipping the trash back to their country.

“A joint technical working group, consisting of officials from both countries, is examining the full spectrum of issues related to the removal of the waste with a view to a timely resolution,” Canada's statement on Wednesday read.

The Palace, however, dismissed Canada's response as “vague” and “not appropriate to the strong statement we made against its throwing its garbage to our land.”

“Not only has it not taken any decisive action on this arrant hostile demeanor, it has not likewise expressed regrets thereto,” Panelo said.

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in the country in November 2017 for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Canada Summit, he told Duterte that Canada "is very much engaged in finding a solution" to the garbage problem. This was the same promise he made to former President Benigno Aquino III in 2015, saying a "Canadian solution was being developed."

Trudeau said "legal barriers and restrictions" earlier prevented his country from taking the trash back, but in 2017, he said, these have been addressed.

Benny Antiporda, Environment Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns, said the only thing that’s blocking the return of the garbage to Canada is the expenses.

“‘Yung tungkol na lamang po sa babayaran dun sa shipping, doon sa demorahe, yun na lang naman ang pinoproblema,” he told CNN Philippines in an interview.

[Translation: The problem is very small – the costs of shipping, demurrage, these are the only problems.]

He said the government is waiting for Canada to run after the exporters and ask for the money needed for the repatriation of the trash.

The Manila Regional Trial Court in May 2017 already ordered the return of 50 container vans carrying Canadian garbage, to be paid for by the Canadian private company that had it shipped.