PH groups urge Canadian PM: Take back illegal trash

MANILA, Philippines – Environmentalists are urging Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to accomplish what his predecessor had failed do – bring home his country's illegally-exported garbage currently stranded in the Philippines.

Trudeau will be in Manila to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on November 18 and 19. 

Groups like Ang NARS party-list, BAN Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition, and Greenpeace insist this is Trudeau’s opportunity to once and for all resolve the illegal Canadian garbage issue.

"We hope that the ‘winds of change’ blowing across Canada will lead to Trudeau's Cabinet wasting no time to re-import the illegally exported garbage to the Philippines and bring this prolonged controversy to a close," said Rene Pineda, vice president of the EcoWaste Coalition.

"Such action will show that his government does not and will not condone the illegal garbage trade that is treating low and middle-income countries as dumps," Pineda added.

Trudeau was elected prime minister on October 19, beating then incumbent prime minister Stephen Harper. 

During Harper’s administration,  some 50 container vans of garbage from Ontario, Canada, were illegally shipped to the Manila port. It was later discovered that an additional 48 container vans from Canada were also stranded in the port. (READ: Illegal garbage dispute: Why can't Canada be like Japan?)

'Make things right'

Despite calls from civil society groups for Canada to repatriate the trash, the Canadian government has said it preferred that the garbage be disposed of in the Philippines.

Environmentalists hope to hear a different response from Trudeau.

"With PM Trudeau at the helm, we expect the Canadian government to turn around the previous stonewalling by the Harper government, to make things right and just, and take back the waste that Canada exported to the Philippines," said Shalimar Vitan, chief operations officer of Ban Toxics.

Ang NARS party list Representative Leah Paquiz also hopes Canadian lawmakers will listen to some of their Filipino counterparts.

The House committee on ecology has written to the Canadian Parliament to express its position that the stranded garbage shipments should go back to Canada.

“We hope that Canadian lawmakers will cross party lines and unanimously back our position…Let us all exercise ethical trade as we raise the gear to free trade," said Paquiz.

Groups hope the issue of the stranded garbage will be discussed should Aquino have a bilateral or pull-aside meeting with Trudeau at the sidelines of the APEC summit. 

When Aquino went on a state visit to Canada last May, he disappointed concerned citizens by not bringing up the topic with Harper.

Aquino also met with Trudeau, head of the Liberal Party of Canada, during his Canadian trip.

Canadian citizens have added their voices to demands that the garbage be returned to Canada.

Philippine Senator Miriam Santiago, a presidential candidate, has said international law is on the Philippines’ side.

The Basel Convention on Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes states that garbage illegally shipped to a country must be returned to its port of origin within 30 days of notification.

It also states that the obligation to manage the waste “may not under any circumstances be transferred to the States of import or transit.”

Canada and the Philippines are both signatories to the agreement. But Canada has said it has no laws or regulations to compel the Canadian exporting company to return the shipments to Canada.

Twenty-six of the first 50 container vans have been dumped in a Tarlac landfill while the rest are still stranded in Philippine ports. – Rappler.com 

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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