The Current

'Canada is in the wrong': Environmentalists urge the country to clear out its trash from the Philippines

More than 100 containers of Canadian garbage have been sitting in a Manila port for years, after being mistakenly sent there as recyclable material. Now Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte says he will "declare war" if Canada doesn't take the trash back. We get all the details on the diplomatic stink.

More than 100 containers of Canadian waste were shipped to Manila in 2013 and 2014 — and have been there since

Environmental activists rally outside the Philippine Senate in Manila on September 9, 2015 to demand that scores of containers filled with household rubbish be shipped back to Canada and to push for the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment which prohibits the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries. (AFP/Getty Images)
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Canada needs to remove its garbage from the Philippines immediately — and pay restitution, an environmental studies professor says.

"I would say that at this point the Canadian government should be financially compensating the Philippines government," Myra Hird, who teaches at Queen's University and directs a waste flow research program, told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

She says the Philippines have been "storing our waste for us" for years, and deserve compensation.

More than 100 containers, labelled as recycling, were shipped to Manila by a Canadian company in 2013 and 2014. Customs inspectors later discovered the containers actually contained garbage, including soiled diapers, food waste and electronic waste.

The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, 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. (Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)

In a video broadcast on Tuesday, the Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte warned Canada to take back the containers within a week, or he'd ship them back himself.

At an event in Montreal Wednesday, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna said Canada is "working very hard to address the issue of the garbage. I think that there is a solution that can be found in the coming weeks."

Philippines Ambassador for Canada Petronila Garcia did not respond to The Current's request for comment.

Some environmental lawyers have argued the shipment of trash has violated Canada's international obligations.

Kathleen Ruff, founder of the human rights and environment public advocacy campaign RightOnCanada, says Canada is in violation of the Basel Convention.

"[It] states that the government of a country has the obligation of bringing back waste … when the waste was illegally shipped. There's no question about it that the shipment of this waste was illegal."

Ruff cited the convention's definition of illegal waste, which she said includes waste that is "fraudulently or incorrectly represented, as these wastes were."

"Canada is in the wrong."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Émilie Quesnel with files from CBC News. Produced by John Chipman, Sarah-Joyce Battersby and Danielle Carr.

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