By Charmaine A. Tadalan
and Vincent Mariel P. Galang, Reporters
THE shipment of all 69 waste containers back to Canada has pushed through, with the Canadian government shouldering some P10 million in shipment costs.
“ICTSI waived all costs on land; Canada picked up the tab from fumigation to ship side loading, to tomorrow’s departure-including helping get foreign permits for transshipment so ship’s captain will depart (with stops) all the way to Canada,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin said in a social media post, Thursday.
The shipment of the waste containers, which had been in the Philippines for six years, was accomplished with the joint effort of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Embassy of Canada in the Philippines, an the ICTSI.
“After containers cleaned & ready to go ship arrival was delayed a day; Ricky Razon made sure once docked ship loaded. Cimatu up early begged for foreign transshipment permits. Canada Amb. Holmes never slept ‘til it all got done,” Mr. Locsin said.
Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said in a mobile phone message to reporters, Wednesday, the Canadian government covered an estimated “P10 million” for the shipment of the trash back to Vancouver. Mr. Guevarra is standing as Officer-in-Charge, while President Rodrigo R. Duterte is in a 4-day state visit in Japan.
President Duterte on April 23 threatened to wage war against Canada if the waste containers remained in the country. He had also given a directive that the containers must be shipped out by May 15, which the Canadian government failed to meet.
This prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs to recall its diplomats in Canada and later the Office of the President to issue a memorandum directing government officials to prevent holding official trips to Canada.
Senator Loren B. Legarda, for her part as chair of the committee on foreign relations, commended President Duterte’s “political will.”
“I’m glad that years later this is happening now. It’s the strong political will of the President, just like Boracay, is an example of strong political will,” the Senator said in a briefing, Thursday.
She said she hopes the Philippines’ relations with the Canadian government would eventually normalize, in consideration also of the Filipino migrants there.
“I hope so because Canada is home to many Filipino migrants, we also have an economic diplomacy with Canada, I hope the ties and relations will normalize. After the trash issue is settled I’m sure there will be talks, I leave it to DFA Locsin to do that.”
Environmental groups, for their part, urged the Philippine government to ban all waste imports in the country and to endorse the Basel Ban Amendment.
“Local NGO (non-government organizations) groups, including Ecowaste Coalition, Greenpeace Philippines, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, BAN Toxics, and the global Break Free from Plastic movement, reiterated the call for the Philippine government to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits the import of all waste for any reason, including ‘recycling,’” Greenpeace said in a statement on Thursday.
The amendment contains the regulation of transfer of hazardous wastes from one country to another, and prohibits developed countries from exporting hazardous wastes to developing ones.
“The groups are also calling on the Philippine government to ban all waste shipments from entering the Philippines, and to stand up for Philippine sovereignty by telling developed countries that the Philippines is not a garbage dump,” the statement read in part.
“While the return of Canada’s waste is a positive development, only a little more than half (69 containers) of the original waste is being shipped back; 26 containers were already landfilled in the Philippines at the time when Canada disowned responsibility for the shipment; the other eight containers were also disposed of locally,” it said.
Other shipments to the Philippines containing garbage are from South Korea (October 2018), part of which were returned in January this year, while the remaining 5,176.9 metric tons (MT) are still in Misamis, Oriental.
In May, waste from Australia and HongKong were discovered at the Mindanao Container Terminal.
These waste importations to Southeast Asian countries started after China stopped accepting such shipments in January last year. A Greenpeace report noted that majority of mixed recyclable plastics that were meant to be shipped to China had been redirected to countries with weak environmental regulations.