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Rodrigo Duterte is the president of the Philippines, which is ranked highly corrupt by Transparency International
AP Photo/Aaron Favila
Environment

Canada Commits to Taking Back Its 'Illegal' Trash in the Philippines


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Canada’s recent battle over trash left rotting in the Philippines represents a larger environmental issue as developed countries continue to send their trash to developing countries that do not have the ability to properly dispose of it. Join Global Citizen and take action on Global Goal 13 for the climate.

A month after President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines warned Canada to take care of the trash it's been storing in his country, Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has announced the trash is coming home.

Officials in the Philippines say that private Canadian company Chronic Plastics Inc. shipped an estimated 103 containers with 2,450 tons of “illegal” waste in 2013 and 2014, claiming it was recyclable plastic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the issue during a press briefing in 2015, but the Canadian government did not commit to its removal until this week.

Of the 103 containers, 34 have been disposed of in the Philippines, and McKenna now says that the remaining 69 containers will be sent back to Canada, thanks to a contract with shipping company Bollore Logistics Canada.

“Canada values its deep and long-standing relationship with the Philippines and has been working closely with Filipino authorities to find a solution that is mutually acceptable,” she said in a statement.

But the announcement comes after a tense month between the two countries.

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On Wednesday, Salvador Panelo, a spokesman for Duterte, held a news conference where he announced Duterte had advised officials to find a private shipping company to send the garbage to Canada, as Canada had missed its May 15 deadline.

“If Canada will not accept their trash, we will leave the same within its territorial waters or 12 nautical miles out to sea from the baseline of any of their country’s shores,” Panelo said. “The president’s stance is as principled as it is uncompromising: The Philippines as an independent sovereign nation must not be treated as trash by other foreign nations.”

McKenna confirmed that Canada will be paying to have the trash shipped back and said that she expects the containers to be sent by before July, after being “safely treated.”

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She said they will then be properly disposed of in Canada.

These containers may be specific to Canada and the Philippines, but the issue of developed countries exporting garbage to developing countries is not.

Without access to waste management systems, countries like Malaysia, which has become the biggest importer of trash in the world, will likely see garbage pile up on their land and in their water sources.