Filipinos to Trudeau: Take out the trash

2,500 tons of trash in Manila be­longs to Cana­di­ans

Metro Canada (Ottawa) - - Front Page -

Justin Trudeau’s visit to the Philip­pines brought him within a short walk of a Cana­dian con­tro­versy that has lin­gered in the Port of Manila for years: about 100 stranded con­tain­ers crammed with thou­sands of tons of rot­ting trash from Canada.

The case of the ran­cid Cana­dian garbage, fes­ter­ing in Manila for about four years, is well known in the Philip­pines — it’s made head­lines and led to protests by en­vi­ron­men­tal and pub­lic-health ac­tivists.

They’ve been call­ing on Canada to repa­tri­ate the waste, which is said to in­clude old wires, CDS, used plas­tic cups and soiled adult di­a­pers. Es­ti­mates in lo­cal news re­ports say there could be as much as 2,500 tons of trash in 103 ship­ping con­tain­ers.

The ship­ments were al­lowed into the coun­try be­cause they were al­legedly dis­guised as re­cy­clable plas­tics. Upon in­spec­tion, how­ever, cus­toms of­fi­cers dis­cov­ered they were stuffed with reek­ing house­hold trash — or worth­less land­fill junk.

Dur­ing a visit to Manila two years ago, Trudeau was asked by a lo­cal re­porter about the Cana­dian garbage. He replied at the time that a “Cana­dian so­lu­tion” was in the works and vowed to make sure it wouldn’t hap­pen again.

“It’s two years al­ready and the waste still re­mains here,” said Aileen Lucero, na­tional co­or­di­na­tor of Manila’s Ecowaste Coali­tion, one of many groups that have been fight­ing for the re­moval of the rub­bish. Coin­ci­den­tally, she said a photo op Sun­day brought the prime min­is­ter within about 100 me­tres of the site.

Trudeau, in Manila for a sum­mit of south­east Asian coun­tries, made lo­cal me­dia head­lines with his visit to a nearby Jol­libee fast­food joint. He used the visit as a way to high­light the con­nec­tion be­tween the Philip­pines and Canada, where the com­pany opened a store last year in Win­nipeg to cater to the city’s large Filipino pop­u­la­tion.

With news cam­eras rolling, Trudeau worked his way around the store greet­ing cus­tomers and staff, high-fiv­ing tod­dlers and pos­ing for self­ies. A photo of his visit landed on the front page of a ma­jor Manila daily Mon­day morn­ing. He also or­dered a meal — to go.

“It is OK for us that the prime min­is­ter dropped by a 100-per­cent Filipino res­tau­rant and take out fries or a burger for him­self,” Lucero said. “But there is (some­thing) much more im­por­tant to take out and that is the Canada waste.” Her net­work of com­mu­nity groups fears the trash has con­tam­i­nated the area where it’s stored. The in­tense rainy sea­sons in the coun­try likely mean tox­ins have leached into the soil over the years, she added.

In 2014, the Philippine gov­ern­ment rec­om­mended the con­tain­ers be re­turned to Canada un­der the pro­vi­sions of the Basel Con­ven­tion, which pro­hibits de­vel­oped coun­tries from ship­ping waste to de­vel­op­ing na­tions.

Ot­tawa is well aware of the fact the Philippine gov­ern­ment cares deeply about re­solv­ing the sit­u­a­tion, which was cre­ated by a com­mer­cial de­ci­sion, said a se­nior Cana­dian of­fi­cial who spoke on con­di­tion anonymity.

Canada now stands ready to work with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to trans­port the trash back to Canada, if nec­es­sary, the of­fi­cial said.

Hand­out/the Cana­dian press

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