No new date for garbage shipment after Canada misses deadline

MANILA, Philippines – Despite missing the May 15 deadline, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that Canada is already working on taking back the remaining 69 containers of garbage it shipped to the Philippines back in 2013. 

Environment Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management Benny Antiporda on Monday, May 20, said that the Canadian government was only able to book Bolloré Logistics as their broker as of Sunday evening, May 19. 

"This is just a matter of coordination. But basically, if you talk about the Philippines' side, everything is under control, we are on target, [so] expect a swift shipping out of these containers," Antiporda said.

Even then, Antiporda said they can't promise when the garbage will finally leave Philippine soil.

After Canada missed the May 15 deadline, the Philippines recalled its ambassador and consuls to Canada.

"That recall shows that we are very serious in asking to get back their garbage. Otherwise, we're going to sever relations with them," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on May 16. 

Panelo said the more delay in taking back the trash, "the more personnel will be coming back."

In an earlier message to Rappler, Antiporda explained that the Canadian government faced delays due to the procurement process and the need to fumigate the containers. (READ: Canada vows to resolve garbage row after Duterte threat)

"[S]ince there is no direct shipping, they need to secure clearances from other countries [as well]," he added. 

But with Bolloré Logistics now declared as the handler, Antiporda said the company will be working on the permits to get the containers out of the country. Maersk, on the other hand, will be carrying the cargo.

Canada will also be paying for the fees to ship out the remaining garbage. Subic Bay International Terminal Corporation (SBITC) currently holds 67 of the containers while the remaining two containers are at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT).

The local government units covering the SBITC and the MICT have already agreed to carry all 69 containers out of the premises for fumigation before being loaded onto the ship.

Accountability

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu told Rappler that they have yet to discuss if there would be additional penalties for missing the deadline.

Antiporda said there is still an existing case against the private importers. (READ: TIMELINE: Canada garbage shipped to the Philippines)

EcoWaste Coalition national coordinator Aileen Lucero expressed her disappointment over the missed deadline last May 15. The Department of Finance had blamed it on the "bureacratic red tape" in the Canadian government. 

The coalition on Tuesday, May 21, held a protest in front of the Canadian Embassy to push for the immediate re-export of the garbage.

"If Canada truly values its deep and longstanding relationship with the Philippines, they should have made immediate and high priority arrangements to take their garbage home in keeping with their obligations under the Basel Convention," Lucero said. 

The Basel Convention, which controls the transboundary shipment and disposal of toxic wastes, was amended just recently to also include plastic waste.

EcoWaste Coalition also filed a Freedom of Information request last May 16 after it had gotten confirmation from the Bureau of Customs that 34 out of 103 containers were locally disposed. 

Out of the 34 containers, 26 were unloaded at a landfill in Capas, Tarlac, in 2015 by the Metro Clark Waste Management Corporation. Metro Clark only stopped unloading when a provincial order stopped the dumping of any foreign garbage in Tarlac. 

“We are really curious as to where the wastes from the 8 containers went after top officials of Tarlac, as well as Bulacan, objected to the dumping of Canadian wastes in landfills operating in their provinces," Lucero said.

"Were they buried or, God forbid, burned?" – Rappler.com