Politics

'Eat it if you want to': Filipino President Duterte lashes out over Canadian cargo of trash

The president of the Philippines says that if Canada doesn't take back tonnes of trash within the next week, he will "declare war" and ship the containers back himself.

More than 100 of the containers were shipped to Manila by a Canadian company in 2013 and 2014

Filipino environmental activists wear a mock container van filled with garbage to symbolize the cargo containers of garbage that were shipped from Canada to the Philippines two years ago. (Aaron Favila/Associated Press)

The president of the Philippines says that if Canada doesn't take back tonnes of trash within the next week, he will "declare war" and ship the containers back himself.

Filipino media outlets are reporting that Rodrigo Duterte made threats Tuesday about dozens of shipping containers filled with Canadian household and electronic garbage that has been rotting in a port near Manila for nearly six years.

More than 100 of the containers were shipped to Manila by a Canadian company in 2013 and 2014, improperly labelled as plastics for recycling. Customs inspectors discovered they actually contained garbage, including soiled adult diapers and kitchen trash.

"I'll give a warning to Canada maybe next week that they better pull that thing out or I will set sail," said Duterte in a video broadcast by RTVM, the media arm of the president's office.

"I will declare war against them. I will advise Canada that your garbage is on the way. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to."

"Your garbage is coming home."

Canada has been trying for nearly six years to convince the Philippines to dispose of the garbage there, even though a Filipino court ordered the trash returned to Canada in 2016.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during a photo at the ASEAN-Canada 40th commemorative session in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, November 14, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Last week, a British Columbia lawyer said in a legal brief that Canada is in violation of the international Basel Convention, which forbids developed nations from sending their toxic or hazardous waste to developing nations without informed consent.

A spokesperson for federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna said Canada is looking into the issue.

"Canada is strongly committed to collaborating with the Philippines government to resolve this issue and is aware of the court decision ordering the importer to ship the material back to Canada," said Sabrina Kim in an email to CBC News.

"A joint technical working group, consisting of officials from both countries, is examining the full spectrum of issues related to the removal of the waste with a view to a timely resolution.

"In 2016, we amended our own regulations around hazardous waste shipments to prevent such events from happening again. We are committed to working collaboratively to ensure the material is processed in an environmentally responsible way."

With files from the CBC's Catharine Tunney

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