THE Philippine government’s decision to recall its officials in Canada over the garbage row was a warning that Manila is ready to end its decades-old diplomatic ties with Ottawa, Malacañang said yesterday.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the goal of the recall as announced by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. was to “persuade” Canada to expedite the repatriation of the tons of trash it illegally shipped to the Philippines years ago.
“The more they delay, the more personnel will be coming back,” Panelo said at a news conference.
“The fact alone that Secretary Locsin has recalled our diplomats there shows that not only are we serious, we’re already warning them we’re gonna sever diplomatic relations.”
Covered by the recall order are Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila Garcia and consuls with Locsin expecting them to return to Manila soon.
Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte is aware of Locsin’s move which came after Canada failed to meet the May 15 deadline to remove the trash.
“The President does not interfere with his department heads, because they are his alter egos; they know what the President’s program is with respect to relations with other countries. So ‘pag sinabi ng department head ‘yan, ‘yan ang posisyon ng Presidente,” he said.
Duterte had lashed out at Canada over the tons of household trash that were illegally exported to the Philippines in batches in 2013 and 2014.
He even threatened to go to war over the garbage now rotting in ports and a landfill, but Panelo said the President’s remark was just a figure of speech.
Canada said they are already working with the Philippine government for a “timely resolution” to remove the tons of Canadian garbage in the country. Documentation issues however were stalling the process for the repatriation, according to Panelo.
Panelo said he sees no reason for the recall order to affect the welfare of 800,000 Filipinos living and working in Canada.
“I don’t think magkakaroon ng problema doon, kasi iyong mga nandoon naman eh legal – at kailangan din ng mga overseas workers natin,” he said.
“Ang gobyerno kung kailangan nila ang overseas workers natin doon, siyempre hindi nila gagalawin iyon, madi-disrupt din iyong takbo ng kanilang palakad doon.”
He added the Philippine Embassy in Canada is ready to assist Filipinos there should they encounter problems as a result of the recall order.
“It goes without saying: We are always protective of the overseas workers,” Panelo said.
The environment-advocate group EcoWaste Coalition has asked the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to disclose records pertaining to the local disposal of the eight of the 103 containers of illegal garbage shipments from Canada.
The group through its national coordinator Aileen Lucero said that they filed the request with tracking no: #BOC-661823304998 after getting a confirmation from the Bureau of Customs (BoC) that 34 of the 103 containers have already been disposed of locally, and only 69 containers will be shipped back to Canada.
Lucero stressed that full disclosure of the information will help clear the air.
“The people have the right to know (where this illegal garbage was disposed),” Lucero said.
With Cory Martinez