By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

MALACAÑANG on Thursday said the recall of Filipino representatives from Ottawa over the delayed trash shipments serves as a warning by President Rodrigo R. Duterte that his administration is ready to “sever” 70 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and the Philippines.

In a press briefing at the Palace, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said the President was “aware” of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr.’s order to the Philippine consuls in Ottawa to return to Manila after the Canadian government failed to meet the May 15 deadline for the shipment of its garbage from the Philippines.

He also said Mr. Locsin’s order shows “that we’re not only serious, we’re already warning them [that] we’re gonna sever [our] diplomatic relations.”

On the implications of this action on the Filipino citizens living in Canada, Mr. Panelo said: “Hopefully, wala dapat (There shouldn’t be).”

“I don’t think magkakaroon ng problema doon, kasi iyong mga nandoon naman eh legal — at kailangan din ang mga overseas workers natin,” he also said. (I don’t think there will be a problem there, because most Filipinos there are legal. They also need our overseas workers).

Sought for comment, the Canadian Embassy in Manila told BusinessWorld via e-mail: “Unfortunately, we do not have yet a statement right now.”

Mr. Panelo also said, “Ang sinasabi ng Canadian authorities (are saying that) they’re doing their best to bring back the garbage to them. I cannot even understand, because if I were the Prime Minister, kadali-dali naman niyan (that is very easy to do).”

In a series of Twitter posts on Thursday morning, Mr. Locsin said: “At midnight last night, letters for the recall of our ambassador and consuls to Canada went out. They are expected here in a day or so. Canada missed the May 15 deadline. And we shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage is ship bound there.”

He added: “That the government may consider a 2 to 3 week delay does not extend the deadline. Our diplomatic presence in Canada shall be de minimis. At the Japanese enthronement ceremony, DoF (Department of Finance) informed me that Canada did not show up at a meeting with Customs and that was the trigger.”

“When the President speaks as he did to the extent of ‘declaring war on Canada’ for its garbage here, he is to be taken seriously and not metaphorically; at least, I do because I do not think I know better than he does. Some of his officials do.”

Also sought for comment, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a media interview at the Palace that severing diplomatic ties with the Canadian government is far-fetched.

“Tingin ko hindi darating sa hantungan na ‘yun. Kung mangyayari ‘yun, I think magkakaroon ng impact ‘yun sa Canadian companies (I think that will not happen. If that happens, there will be an impact on Canadian companies),” he said. — with Charmaine A. Tadalan