DFA to send diplomatic protest to Canada over illegal trash

Pia Ranada
DFA to send diplomatic protest to Canada over illegal trash
Did the Philippine government bow to pressure from Canada? 'We are primarily pushing for our own national interests first,' says the DFA spokesman.

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs will file a diplomatic protest with the Canadian government reiterating its objection to the presence of illegal Canadian trash in the country, said DFA Spokesman Charles Jose.

The statement comes 3 days after the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) asked the DFA to file such a protest.

The DFA sent a letter in reply dated July 29, asking the two agencies for more documents to support the diplomatic protest or note to the Canadian embassy.

“As soon as we receive from DENR, BOC the documents we requested, we will relay a 3rd diplomatic note to the Canadian embassy to underscore the Philippine government’s position on the issue and to reiterate our request for the Canadian government to take appropriate action,” said Jose during a press briefing on Thursday, July 30.

A diplomatic note is synonymous to a diplomatic protest, said Jose.

The document will contain a request for the Canadian government to revisit its export laws in order to prevent more garbage from ending up in the Philippines. A flaw in export regulations may have allowed the trash to pass through inspections. 

The DFA will also ask Canada to send documents to help Philippine courts prosecute the two Filipino importers the garbage was being sent to.

This is the 3rd diplomatic note sent by DFA to Canada on the issue.

The first two notes relayed “the Philippine government’s request for the Canadian government to assist with the re-exportation of the containers and we also conveyed our objection to the presence of the containers,” said Jose.

But when asked if the Philippine government would still request Canada to take the garbage back, Jose said the BOC would be the one to issue public statements on the matter.

Bullied by Canada?

The Philippine government as a whole has been hit by advocacy groups for appearing to be bullied by Canada.

The western country has conveyed its wish for the garbage to be “processed” in the Philippines. Twenty-six out of the 103 container vans of garbage have already been emptied in a private landfill in Capas, Tarlac.

Concerned citizens asked President Benigno Aquino III to bring up the issue with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his visit to Canada last May. Aquino did not do so, saying the DFA was handling the matter.

When asked if economic and diplomatic relations between the two countries was a major factor in the Philippine government’s handling of the case, Jose said: “We are primarily pushing for our own national interests first. That is our primary consideration.”

Perceiving slow government action, environmentalists have asked an international body to intervene.

The Basel Convention Secretariat facilitates the enforcement of the Basel Convention, an international treaty to prevent hazardous waste from being transferred from developed countries to poorer countries. 

When asked why the DFA has not brought the issue to the Convention, which both the Philippines and Canada are signatories to, Jose said that the decision lay with the DENR.

“DENR is the focal point for the Basel Convention. They’re the agency to decide on this. They decided that we will assist,” he said.

Container vans of mixed household waste from Canada, a total of 103 container vans, have been stranded in the Philippines since 2013. They were misdeclared as containing recyclable plastic scraps. 

The Philippine government has filed charges against the Filipino importers – Chronic Plastics and Live Green Enterprise – for violating the countrys’ tariff and customs code and environmental guidelines.

Canadian exporter Chronic Incorporated, owned by Jim Makris, has not yet been charged in Canada. 

Lawmakers in the Philippines are set to conduct probes into the matter. An online petition asking Prime Minister Harper to take back the garbage has garnered 38,600 votes from all over the world. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.