PH envoy back home from Canada after recall order

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — Ambassador Petronila Garcia is back in Manila on Friday after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) pulled out its envoys in Canada, as the foreign country missed its deadline to retrieve tons of garbage shipped to the Philippines about six years ago.

A source from the Manila International Airport Authority said Garcia arrived home via a Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight which landed at 3:50 a.m. Friday.

Garcia was aboard PAL Flight 119 which left Toronto, Canada at 11:30 a.m. Manila time, which was less than four hours after Locsin made the announcement on Twitter. 

On Thursday morning, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. announced on Twitter that he has sent recall letters to the ambassador and consuls stationed in Canada to retaliate against the North American country. Canada missed the May 15 deadline given by the Duterte administration to pick up the some 2,000 tons of garbage it shipped to local ports in 2013.

Locsin said diplomatic ties between the Philippines and Canada will be at "de minimis" until the garbage is shipbound to Ottawa. The trigger: Locsin learned that Canadian officials supposedly did not show up to a meeting with the local Bureau of Customs days before the deadline.

On Thursday night, the Canadian government said they are "disappointed" by Garcia's recall. 

"However, we will continue to closely engage with the Philippines to ensure a swift resolution of this important issue," Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Brittany Fletcher told CNN Philippines.

READ: Trash woes won't affect PH-Canada relations, Trade chief says

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Malacañang was informed about Locsin's order, pointing out that the recall puts pressure on Canada to fast-track the process and even threatened that the Philippines will "sever relations with them."

"Nandiyan pa rin ang relasyon but yung action ni Secretary Locsin is a message that this is a very serious matter, we're so concerned about this and they better do soemthing about it because it's (garbage) been lying there for several years," Panelo said on CNN Philippines' Newsroom Ngayon on Friday. 

A total of 103 container vans with trash were dumped in the Philippines via several shipments to Subic and Manila from 2013 to 2014. Canadian-based firm Chronic Plastics, Inc., which exported the containers, misdeclared their contents as plastic scrap materials.

An angry President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier threatened to go to war with Canada for failing to retrieve their garbage. The Canadian government reportedly offered to shoulder shipping costs for the return of the waste, but has been saying since 2017 that they are "finding a solution" to the problem but are faced with legal barriers.