Fri, May 17, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Philippine envoy to Canada recalled

FESTERING ROW:Canada missed the Wednesday deadline by which it had to take back rotting trash that was wrongly labeled as recyclables and sent to Philippine ports

AFP, MANILA

The Philippines has recalled its ambassador to Canada, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin said yesterday, in an escalation of a festering diplomatic row over tonnes of trash shipped to the Southeast Asian nation.

Ties have been deteriorating since a Canadian company sent about 100 shipping containers that included rotting rubbish wrongly labeled as recyclables to Philippine ports in 2013 and 2014.

Wednesday was the deadline set by Manila for Canada to take the rotting trash back, after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte berated Ottawa over the issue last month.

Canada has since said that it is arranging for the containers’ return, but has not said when exactly that might happen.

Locsin said that letters recalling the ambassador and consuls to Canada have been sent and the diplomats would be in Manila “in a day or so.”

“Canada missed the May 15 deadline, and we shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage is ship-bound there,” Locsin wrote on Twitter.

Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The garbage has strained ties between the two nations, which were already tested after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau questioned Duterte’s deadly drug crackdown.

Duterte bristles at any international criticism of his signature policy, which has seen police kill thousands of alleged addicts and pushers since 2016.

Last year, Duterte canceled the Philippine military’s US$235 million contract to buy 16 military helicopters from a Canada-based manufacturer, after Ottawa put the deal under review because of the president’s human rights record.

During a speech last month, Duterte threatened to unilaterally ship the garbage back to Canada, saying: “Let’s fight Canada. I will declare war against them.”

Duterte frequently uses coarse language and hyperbole in speeches about opponents.

Following the comments, Canada offered to repatriate the waste and the Philippines said that Ottawa would shoulder the expense of disposal.

The Philippine Bureau of Customs last week said that the nation was ready to send back the waste, but Canada needed several more weeks to prepare documentation.

About 69 shipping containers of trash remain after 34 others have already been disposed of in the Philippines, the Philippine Department of Finance said.

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