THE 69 container vans of garbage scheduled to be shipped back to Canada may not be returned before the May 15 deadline of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, due to bureaucratic red tape on the part of the Canadian government, the Department of Finance (DoF) said on Tuesday.

A statement by the DoF quoted Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero as saying, in a report to Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, that, “despite the Philippine government’s readiness to re-export the wastes, the Canadian government informed that it might take weeks for them to arrange the necessary documents from their end and that they might not meet the May 15 deadline.”

The customs chief said Canadian documents include import permits and the bidding of fumigation services for the containers, which Canada has agreed to pay.

The Canadian government said these requirements could take “a couple of weeks” to process.

Between 2013 and 2014, a total of 103 container vans of household garbage were shipped to the Philippines in several batches by Canada-based company Chronic Plastics, Inc.

Thirty-four (34) of the containers were already disposed, while the rest are housed in the Manila International Container Port and the Port of Subic.

The shipping lines that will transport the garbage back to Canada — Zim Line, CMA-CGM and Maersk — conducted seaworthiness tests on the containers.

“They reported that all 69 containers are considered seaworthy, with one to be secured with a flat rack container at its bottom part because it has already been infested by termites,” the DOF said.

To recall, President Rodrigo R. Duterte threatened to wage war with Canada if it would not take the trash back.

In a letter sent by the Canadian government to Environment Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuna last April 24, Ottawa confirmed its commitment to cover the costs and prepare to ship the garbage back to its point of origin.

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday confirmed the Canadian government will bear the cost of shipping out 69 garbage containers, following President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s warning.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said in a social media post that Canada will shoulder “all the expenses to ship out all the 69 waste containers.”

“We will shoulder at a huge discount from ICTSI the container storage costs. This is thanks to the Canadian ambassador’s prompt response to the President’s demarche if you want to call it that,” he said in a separate post.

For his part, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement on Tuesday, “On the issue of garbage from Canada, the DFA and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources noted that the Canadian government is committed to shoulder all the expenses to ship out all the 69 waste containers.” — Karl Angelo N. Vidal and Charmaine A. Tadalan