SUBIC, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines on Friday shipped 69 containers of what its officials called illegally transported garbage back to Canada, one of two Southeast Asian countries that have protested being treated like dumpsites by wealthier nations.
Administrator Wilma Eisma of Subic Bay freeport said the tons of garbage were loaded overnight on the container ship M/V Bavaria, which left on a 20-day journey to the Canadian port city of Vancouver and ended a “sordid chapter in our history.” The Bavaria will stop at a Taiwanese port before heading to Canada, she said.
Environmental activists, including those from Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition, welcomed the Bavaria’s arrival at Subic Bay, and on Thursday sailed on board a small outrigger with a streamer reading, “Philippines: not a garbage dumping ground!”
President Rodrigo Duterte had threatened to forcibly ship back the trash, which officials said was transported to the Philippines in 103 containers in 2013 to 2014, and falsely declared as recyclable plastic scraps. Several containers of the trash had been disposed off, including in a landfill, leaving 69 containers of electrical and household waste, including used diapers, rotting in two Philippine ports.
The Philippine government recalled its ambassador and consuls in Canada earlier this month over Ottawa’s failure to comply with a May 15 deadline to take back the waste.
“I think the message that we’re sending to the world is that we will not be a pushover and, moreover, that the president is really somebody to reckon with,” Eisma told The Associated Press.
The return of the garbage removes a six-year thorn in relations between the two countries, especially under Duterte, a temperamental leader who took office in mid-2016. He has resented international criticism, including by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, of his bloody crackdown on illegal drugs that has left thousands of mostly poor suspects dead.
The countries had sought to resolve the problem for years, with Trudeau saying in 2017 that legal issues preventing the return of the garbage had been resolved.