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Canada Take Back Garbage

In  2013,the Bureau of Customs at the Port of Manila intercepted 50 shipping containers declared to be plastic scrap for recycling sent by Chronic Inc., a Whitby, Ont.-based plastics exporter owned by Jim Makris. Upon inspection authorities found containers filled with household garbage, soggy paper and even used adult diapers. The shipment was impounded at Manila International Container Terminal when the shipment was declared junk materials that could pose biohazard risks. The Bureau of Customs stated it is clear that the importer violated the country’s tariff and environmental laws.

The waste sat rotting in containers as outrage in the Philippines grew.

Under the Basel Convention, to which Canada and the Philippines are signatories, it is illegal to ship hazardous waste internationally, except in special circumstances.  The Canadian Embassy to the Philippines said in a statement in 2013 that the Basel Convention and Canadian domestic regulations allows Manila for the shipment to be returned “if they are found to be in contravention with the Convention or cannot be completed in an environmentally sound manner.”

In February of 2014, representatives from the Philippine consulate met with Mr. Makris to discuss the situation. Although the shipment had originally been flagged “because the consignee had submitted incorrect documents for the importation which has a declared value of over $220,000”, Mr. Makris  would speculate that “someone along the chain of delivery wanted to be paid off before his second shipment is allowed through.”

The issue of the rotting waste morphed into a diplomatic hot potato game as Philippine politicians demanded that Canada take back the waste shipment. Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago called for an official government inquiry into the Canadian garbage, the country’s Bureau of Customs  threatened legal action while Leah Paquiz, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, issued the statement, “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.”

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, in an email to The National Post, would state they were working with the shipper and the Government of the Philippines to find and solution although “Currently there are no domestic laws which the Government of Canada could apply to compel the shipper to return his containers to Canada.”

Environmental groups protested the lack of action. A petition with 25,000 signatories urged Canada pick up the garbage.

The shipper Chronic Inc did not pick up containers. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the Bureau of Customs was investigating the 150-worker plant in Valenzuela City started by Makris to sort and sell the plastic he ships.

Greenpeace’s Philippine office released what it called a “damning exposé” — a leaked letter from the country’s Department of Environment showing that Canada and the Philippines were working to have the waste disposed “locally in a landfill.”

In 2015, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday assured the Philippines his government is “developing” a solution to the shipment of tons of Canadian waste to the country, which has been the subject of diplomatic protests filed by Manila “I have obviously been made aware of the situation and I’ve also been told that there is a Canadian solution in the process of being developed,” Trudeau said in a press conference.

Trudeau acknowledged that the incident in the Philippines exposed a “problem” that “needs fixing” within Canada’s own legislation “that we’re going to lean into and make sure it happens.”

“I believe there are loopholes here that were allowed to be skirted that we need to make sure we close, both for Canada’s interest and for our good relationships with our neighbors,” he said.

September 2016, Environmental and labor rights advocates on Monday wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ambassador Neil Reeder to appeal yet again for the return of the controversy-ridden illegal garbage shipments to its origin.

In lieu of the so-called “local solution,” they urged Prime Minister Trudeau to fulfill the “Canadian solution” he alluded to in Nov. 2015 on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in response to a question raised by journalist Tina Monzon Palma regarding the garbage dumping scandal.

“The ‘Canadian solution,’ now more than ever, must categorically include the re-importation of the illegal garbage shipments for environmentally-sound disposal in Canada,” they said.

Is it not time for Canada to be part of the solution and not the problem?

Philippine Judge Alisuag   stated  “our country should not be made a trash bin by (an)other country,”  we at Zero Waste Canada thinks no country should be the trash bin for another country.