Philippines withdraws ambassador from Canada amid festering trash row

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container full of Canadian trash
Just one of the containers filled with trash illegally exported to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014.

The Philippines has withdrawn its ambassador to Canada after Ottawa missed a deadline to take back trash illegally exported to Manila.

Writing on his official Twitter account today (Thursday, May 16), Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro 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.

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“Canada missed the May 15 deadline. And we shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage is ship bound there.” 

On Tuesday, Locsin said the Department of Finance had told him that Canadian representatives did not show up to a meeting with customs officials and “that was the trigger”.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo had previously warned that Canada’s disposal of its garbage was “dangerously disruptive” of Philippine-Canadian ties.

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However, he stressed that this did not mean that there would be cutting of ties between the two countries. 

Today, on the other hand, he said: “The fact alone that Secretary Locsin has recalled our diplomats there shows that not only are we serious, we’re already warning them (that) we’re going to sever diplomatic relations.

“That order of the recall is to persuade them to make it fast. The more they delay, the more personnel will be coming back. The refusal to bring the garbage back to their shores is disruptive of our diplomatic relations.”

The Canadian Embassy has previously promised to “resolve the issue, including taking the waste back to Canada”. The Canadian Embassy in Manila has not yet responded to today’s announcement.

More than a hundred containers from Canada arrived at the Port of Manila in 2013 and 2014.

Initially declared as “plastic scraps”, it was later found to have non-recyclable plastics, general household waste and even soiled adult diapers.

Last month, President Duterte issued Ottawa with an ultimatum to take back its trash. Following this, Locsin announced that the deadline was May 15. He also confirmed that the Canadian government had committed to shouldering all the expenses of shipping out the 69 remaining containers.

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