Philippines recalls ambassador from Canada, which is unwilling to take back its waste

The case concerns 69 containers loaded with garbage, wrongly shipped to the Philippines. Canada did not meet the 15 May deadline to take it back. Garbage imported from rich nations is one of the most serious environmental emergencies in Southeast Asia.

Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Philippines has recalled its ambassador and consuls to Canada, after Ottawa missed the deadline to take back waste exported to the South East Asian nation, Filipino Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro L Locsin Jr said today.

"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," said the official in a tweet. "Canada missed the May 15 deadline. And we shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage is ship bound there."

Manila announced last week that Canada had agreed to take back 69 containers of rubbish that were wrongly sent to the Philippines.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte last month berated Canada over the waste, which was shipped over from 2013 and 2014 in what Ottawa said was a commercial deal.

The containers – labelled as plastics to be recycled in Manila – were actually filled with diapers, newspapers and water bottles.

A Filipino court ruled in 2016 that the rubbish should be returned to Canada. Ottawa assures that it is working to organise its return, but has not said when this will happen.

The issue is not the only one to strain bilateral ties recently. Last year Duterte ordered the military to cancel a US$ 233 million deal to buy 16 helicopters from Canada after Ottawa expressed concerns that they could be used to fight rebels.

In November 2017, Duterte criticised Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the end of a summit of Asian and Western nations for raising questions about his war on drugs.

Waste exports from rich nations is one of the most serious environmental emergencies in Southeast Asia. According to environmentalists, capitalism, greed and inequality have created a crisis in the global recycling system.

The filthy secrets of the multibillion-dollar global recycling industry became apparent in the summer of 2017, when China — which had for decades been the world’s largest importer of recyclables — suddenly announced its intention to close its borders to 24 categories of recyclable waste, including several kinds of scrap plastic and mixed paper. The ban came into effect on 1st Jan 2018, and its effects rippled around the globe.

Starting in late 2017 and escalating through 2018, Malaysia and other nations in Southeast Asia were flooded with recyclable plastics from the United States. The region’s imports from other developed nations like the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Australia also skyrocketed.

In the first half of 2018, imports of plastic trash doubled in Vietnam and increased in Thailand by a staggering 1,370 per cent compared with the same period the previous year.

Last June, Thailand reportedly had 30,000 containers full of imported plastic waste sitting in its ports because of a lack of capacity and issues with import permits.

Faced with the crisis, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, temporarily banned the import of plastic scrap last year in order to adopt new regulations.