Canada has backed down in its dispute with the Philippines, agreeing to take back tonnes of waste shipped to Manila in 103 sea containers.
The announcement by the Canadian environment minister, Catherine McKenna, followed an order from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that the rubbish be sent back.
“The Philippines as an independent sovereign nation must not be treated as trash by other foreign nation,” said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo.
The Philippines has been demanding that the rubbish that was shipped between 2013 and 2014 be sent back, sparking a diplomatic protest.
Canada had said the waste was exported with a commercial transaction done without the government’s consent.
A private company, Bollore Logistics Canada, contracted by the Canadian authorities is expected to pick up the troublesome shipping containers in the coming days.
McKenna said Canada would cover the full costs of the preparation, transfer, shipment and disposal by the end of June.
Manila recalled its ambassador to Ottawa after Canada missed a May 15 deadline to take back its junk.
“As a result of this offending delay, the president has instructed the appropriate office to look for a private shipping company which will bring back Canada’s trash to the latter’s jurisdiction,” added Panelo.
“If Canada will not accept the trash, we will leave the same within the territorial waters or 12 nautical miles out to sea from the baseline of any of their country’s shores.”
The containers were shipped to Manila by a private Canada-based firm and its Philippine partner.
The containers were falsely declared as containing recyclable plastics but they were found to contain household waste, including adult nappies.
The rubbish issue is not the only cause of strained bilateral ties.
Duterte ordered his military to cancel a US$233-million contract to buy 16 Canadian helicopters after Ottawa expressed concern they could be used to fight insurgents.
The rubbish dispute has drawn welcome attention to the murky exports of waste plastic to east Asia from North America and Europe.
David Azoulay of the Centre for International Environmental Law said Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, China and Vietnam were accused of dumping the most plastics into the oceans but it was the west that was mainly to blame.
“When you compare those countries with the waste trade flow, what you find is those countries that are regularly reported as the biggest offenders or the biggest polluters of the ocean are in fact the ones receiving most waste from developed countries,” Azoulay told the media. “When those countries are usually referred to as the biggest polluters of the ocean in the world, the accurate way to talk about them would be to call them the most polluted countries.”
Canada has been singled out by Duterte’s supporters. Picture credit: YouTube