MANILA – The 69 containers of garbage from Canada that had been waiting in ports in the Philippines for six years finally departed early Friday for their place of origin after weeks of diplomatic tension between the two countries.
“Baaaaaaaaa bye, as we say it,” tweeted Foreign Affairs Secretary, Teodoro Locsin, along with the picture of the vessel MV Bavaria belonging to Maersk shipping company, which carried the containers from Subic port, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) away from Manila.
The loading of the containers, which began Thursday afternoon, ended at 3am Friday and the ship departed from the Philippines for Vancouver, Canada, at 7am, said the chairman and administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Wilma Eisma, in a statement.
The ship with about 2,450 tons of garbage, which was allegedly illegally exported to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014, will make a short stopover in Taiwan and is scheduled to arrive at the port of Vancouver on June 22 to be incinerated in neighboring Burnaby.
“We thank President Rodrigo Duterte for his decisive action that brought about a satisfactory conclusion to this sordid chapter in our history. This is one proud moment for all Filipinos,” said Eisma.
Last month, Duterte increased pressure on the Canadian government to take back the waste and even threatened to go to war.
On May 16, the Philippines called consultations with its ambassador and consuls in Ottawa, a day after the first deadline given to Canada to remove the trash expired, and on Sunday banned travel of senior officials to Canada.
“If Canada will not accept the trash, we will leave the same within the territorial waters or 12 nautical miles out to sea from the baseline of any of their country’s shores,” warned presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on May 22.
A day after the new warning, the Canadian Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna announced the government had hired Bollore Logistics to extract the 69 containers from the Philippine ports of Manila and Subic.
Out of the 103 containers that were exported to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014 – entering the country classified as “recyclable material” but in reality contained domestic waste, diapers, newspapers and plastic bottles – 26 were buried in the Tarlac landfill north of Manila.
These consignments provoked several diplomatic protests from the Philippines, but the Canadian government refused at the time to take action, alleging that the garbage shipment was “a private transaction” involving the company Chronic Plastics and not endorsed by the government.
In the last few weeks garbage containers from Australia and Hong Kong have also been found in the Philippines. Manila has urged them to extract their waste.