MANILA: Philippine legislators on Friday threw their support behind the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) decision to recall the Filipino ambassador to Canada over a garbage row.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in a text message to reporters, said “it was the right thing to do under the circumstances,” adding that “national dignity is part and parcel of diplomacy.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. on Thursday ordered the pullout of the Philippine ambassador and consuls general to Canada after the North American country failed to meet the May 15 deadline to retrieve the garbage it had illegally shipped to Manila in 2013 and 2014.
According to Lacson, “to allow the country to be a regular dumping ground of toxic garbage by another country smacks of arrogance, aside from the health hazards that it brings to our people.”
But for the senator, to recall the country’s representatives to Ottawa is not enough. He cited the need to go after those who were responsible for bringing more than 100 containers of household trash, including soiled bags and diapers, into the country.
“Let’s find out who facilitated this so we can dump them at sea halfway to Canada,” Lacson said.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, also commended the government’s strong resolve to send the Canadian rubbish back to where it came from.
“This is a reminder to other countries that the Philippines is not their dumping site,” Legarda said in an emailed statement.
“Solid waste management should be enforced within each country and within their communities. With our strong political will and even stronger cooperation among groups and advocates, we will remain vigilant in safeguarding any threats against our environment and health,” she continued.
The senator stressed “it is unacceptable that six years after these containers containing garbage were shipped to Philippine shores, and despite assurances from the Canadian government to help remove them, their waste is still here, posing significant health and environment risks in our country.”
In 2015, Legarda, who was then chair of the Senate committee on environment, led a Senate hearing on the issue, where she said that “taking back their waste is the only option.”
The senator noted that Canada is a signatory to the Basel Convention, so as part of their commitment to the Convention they should take back their waste.
Canada expressed disappointment over the DFA’s decision to recall the Philippine ambassador to Manila. It vowed to work closely with the Philippines in coming up with a “swift resolution” to the waste issue.
“Canada is disappointed by this decision to recall the Philippines ambassador and consuls general. However, we will continue to closely engage with the Philippines to ensure a swift resolution of this important issue,” said Global Affairs Canada in a statement.
The statement reiterated that Canada values the deep and longstanding relationship with the Philippines.
“Canada has repeatedly conveyed to the Philippines government its commitment to promptly ship and dispose of the Canadian waste in the Philippines. We remain committed to finalizing these arrangements for the return of the waste to Canada,” it added.