Canada offers to ship back its trash; DFA says 'delicate negotiations' underway

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 4) — The Canadian government has offered to ship back to its country tons of decaying garbage that have been staying in Philippine ports since 2013.

This was confirmed by the Canada's environment department in a statement sent to CNN Philippines on Saturday.

"The Government of Canada remains committed to working with the Government of the Philippines and has made an offer to repatriate this Canadian waste," Environment and Climate Change Canada said. "Canada hopes to finalize an agreement with the Philippines shortly to return the waste to Canada for appropriate disposal."

There is no official statement from the Philippine government yet, but Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr. on Friday said the two countries are in "delicate negotiations."

When asked by a reporter for an interview on the Canadian waste, Locsin tweeted, "Let me ask the Canadian ambassador; we're in delicate negotiations."

Meanwhile, Malacañang has been mum since reports of Canada's offer made headlines on Friday. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said he has "no info" on it yet.

On Wednesday, Locsin said the garbage "will be on ship in 15 days," but did not elaborate on how this would happen.

The illegally dumped garbage was brought back to the spotlight as President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to go to war against Canada if it would not take the trash back. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was quick to clarify that the President did not really mean war, but was just expressing his "extreme displeasure." The Canadian Embassy in the Philippines responded that Ottawa is "strongly committed” to shipping the trash back. Malacañang was not satisfied with Canada's statement and warned that further delay in the repatriation of trash could result in severed diplomatic ties.

Benny Antiporda, Environment Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns, told CNN Philippines the only thing blocking the return of the garbage to Canada was the expenses. 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.

A total of 103 container vans containing trash weighing over 2,000 tons were shipped to the Philippines in several batches from 2013 to 2014. Canadian-based firm Chronic Plastics, Inc., which exported the vans, declared their contents as plastic scrap materials. The Environment department in 2014 found that the shipments contained municipal solid wastes, which should be immediately disposed and cannot be recycled. In 2015, some of the garbage were dumped in a private landfill in Tarlac while the remaining wastes stayed at the country's ports.