MANILA – Philippine authorities demanded that Canada repatriate its junk “exported” to the Philippines in 50 Canadian shipping containers.
“I will not tolerate this matter sitting down. Pick up your garbage Canada, and show us the decency that we so rightfully deserve as a nation. My motherland is not a garbage bin of Canada,” Leah Paquiz, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, said in a statement last week.
Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has also called for an official government inquiry into the matter, even as the situation is raising a stink in various sectors of Philippine society.
“Canada pick up your garbage!!! Philippines is NOT a dumping soil of Canadian garbage!” demands a petition signed, thus far by 25,000 individuals.
The garbage was discovered some months ago, in Feburary, when the Philippine Bureau of Customs scrutinized 50 Canadian shipping containers supposedly containing “scrap plastic materials for recycling.” Instead, the containers were filled with household refuse, soggy paper, as well as soiled adult diapers.
This discovery prompted officials to impound the shipment at Manila International Container Terminal, and to declare the goods as “junk materials [that] could pose biohazard risks.”
Customs officials said that the garbage was shipped by Chronic Inc., a plastics export company based in Whitby, Ontario, and owned by a certain Jim Makris.
In a February interview the Toronto Star, Makris said, in reaction to the shipped garbage: “It’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard of in my entire life,” adding that “anyone with a brain” knows that it is less costly to simply dispose of the garbage in Canada than to ship it to a country across the Pacific Ocean.
Makris also said that he had exported “plastic for recycling” and other such shipments on many other occasions, without any issues; but that this time, he said that the containers may have been filled with garbage as “punishment” for his failure to meet the demands of a payoff.
To this date, the garbage has not been removed by Chronic Inc., and their business phones have since been disconnected.
The situation has ecological and environmental groups up in arms, as the containers have started leaking “garbage juice” as a result of the decomposing trash.
Furthermore, authorities estimate that the containers have cost the Philippine government over $1.5-million in storage fees at the already overcrowded and congested container terminal.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this unabashed attempt to dump hazardous waste misrepresented as recyclable plastics into our country,” Romy Hidalgo of EcoWaste Coalition told reporters from the Inquirer on Tuesday.
Citing the Basel Convention, a United Nations treaty on hazardous waste materials, the Philippines says that the containers are in clear violation of the stipulation that countries are obliged to repatriate any “illegal traffic” seized overseas.
Meanwhile, Canadian foreign officials said that the repatriation of the trash has left them in a bind.
“Currently there are no domestic laws which the Government of Canada could apply to compel the shipper to return his containers to Canada,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said in a statement to the National Post.
“The Government of Canada is working with the shipper and the Government of the Philippines to find a solution to this waste shipment in the Philippines, in accordance with our two countries’ respective regulations and legislative frameworks,” that statement added.