OTTAWA – The President of the Philippines threatened to announce the war of Canada this week if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does not take a lot of rubbish.
After years of calls from environmental groups, the wrath of local politicians and the ruling of the Philippine Court, there are still dozens of Vancouver ships in ports in Manila.
Recently, President Rodrigo Duterte said that if he does not disappear within a week, he will "sail" to return to Canadian soil. "We will declare war on them," he said at a press conference on Tuesday. "I will not allow this kind of s-t."
What are Canadian rubbish doing there?
In 2013 and 2014, customs officials seized more than 100 containers sent to Manila by a private Canadian company. They were labeled "waste plastics for recycling", but they actually contained household waste, including certain toxic substances.
The Philippines has been complaining for years, and in 2016 the court ordered Canada to pay for the waste to be sent back. In the meantime, the company that sent it, Chronic Inc., denied that it had sent anything but plastic. According to a government official who is not authorized to talk, the government understands that the company no longer exists, and the problem will be dealt with bilaterally.
Some of the contents of shipping containers ended up in a local landfill that is part of an attempt to get it removed in a cheaper, more environmentally friendly way, but most remain in containers. For local authorities, which enable the rich country to avoid just dumping garbage, does not mean good optics.
Has Canada violated international law?
If the containers were wrongly labeled and toxic waste was in them, then Canada was probably in breach of the Basel Convention, an international treaty on hazardous waste, issued last week by a Canadian journalist.
Sabrina Kim, spokeswoman for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, said Canada is working with the Philippine government and is familiar with the court order. "The Joint Technical Working Group, consisting of officials from both countries, is currently examining a full range of waste-related issues with the goal of timely resolution," she said. "In 2016, we will change our own regulations on shipments of hazardous waste, in order to prevent such events from occurring. We are committed to working together to ensure that the material is processed in an environmentally responsible manner. "
In accordance with the Basel Convention, if parties can not reach a peaceful agreement, they may refer the matter to the International Court of Justice. Since Wednesday, a government official said that things look good for a resolution within a few weeks, not months, which "will most likely require Canada to take up the waste." We'll probably miss Duterte's deadline.
Does the president really think about declaring war?
Duterte is often known for his temperament and occasional insults compared with US counterpart Donald Trump. He wrote, for example, titles when he named Barack Obama as "son of a whore" in 2016.
Canadian rubbish in the Philippines is a hot issue that Duterte withdrew one of his promises in the same year. He spoke about the garbage on Tuesday when he said that Canadians can "sing if you want" and recommended that Ottawa organize a welcome reception on arrival.
Because of his general attitude, observers do not accept calls for a literal war all seriously.
What about a kind of trade war?
If Duterte does not start with a costly international arbitration procedure, prepare its combat ships or, if this happens, only take the garbage on the boat itself, there are other ways in which the Philippines can mix with Canada. The question of trade relations would not be particularly wise, said Carlo Dade, a trade expert at the Canada West Foundation.
The Philippines has a surplus in commodity trade – it exports $ 1.3 billion to Canada, which is more than twice the amount of $ 626 million sent by Canada. According to the census in 2016, more than 558,000 immigrants, born in the Philippines, were living in Canada. The Canadian Statistical Office reported last week that Canadian residents sent $ 1.2 billion in remittances to the Philippines in 2017, more than any other country.
"In fact, the most important and most vulnerable in this relationship is a corrupted angle, that is, a personal angle. They do not want anything that would disturb the flows of remittances, "said Dade. "I do not see that this really meant much more than just a symbolic competition on the scene."
Are there other ways to penalize Canada?
Duterte could try to damage Canadian experiments in order to afford some Asian-Pacific groups. I was not invited. Or, if he really thought it would hit home points, Duterte would consider dropping a Canadian diplomat or two.
However, the Canadian government did not see any signs of such movements, the official said. "In addition to the President's remarks, I do not think there were any signs of possible diplomatic consequences. … We very much hope that this is not the case. «
In any case, Dade thought, Duterte is likely to gain more political benefit from his rhetoric, backed by Canada than if he actually acted after her. "There is no lost love here." As he tried to record Mr. Environment, Mr. Global Green Go-To Guy, who is on the international stage (Trudeau), is not the worst thing that could fall into the Duterte Circle, "he said.
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