MP Kevin Lamoureux(centre), Chair of the Friendship Group mets with Philippine Embassy officials May 13, 2019, in preparation for the first Filipino-Heritage Month celebrations scheduled in June. (From left:) Danilo Arriola, Founder of the Philippine Dance Troupe of Ottawa (PDTO), Member of Parliament (MP) Wayne Stetski, MP Kevin Lamoureux, Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila Garcia, MP Alice Wong, and Ms. Nora Arriola, Chairperson of the Philippine Independence Committee of the Ottawa Valley (PICOV). (Photo: Philippine Embassy)

Philipines/Canada

MPs could not agree on what to do with stinking garbage

Opinion

By Ted Alcuitas

One member of parliament wants the Canadian government to issue a full apology and order an immediate return while another thinks the garbage will keep rotting for a while.

Both have substantial numbers of Filipino constituents in their riding.

Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux  says it is “ embarrassing and unlikely to end soon,.”

Lamoureux represents the riding of Winnipeg North, considered one of the largest riding with a Filipino population in Canada.

In a Facebook comment in response to our request, NDP MP Don Davies of Vancouver-Kingsway calls Canada’s slow response to the garbage issue “utterly shameful’ and wants the garbage immediately repatriated with full compensation to the Philippines. He also want the government to issue a full apology.

Davies also raised the issue in the House, one of only two parliamentarians who took up the issue. The other parliamentarian is NDP MP Gord Jones of Courtenay-Alberni.

MP Don Davies

The parliamentarians’ comments followed the recall yesterday  of the Philippine ambassador to Canada and all consular officials.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin, Jr. issued the recall orders citing the failure of Canada to meet the deadline of May 15 to ship back the garbage issued by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Lamoureux chairs a parliamentary friendship group between Canada and the Philippines and told The Canadian Press that Canada clearly could not meet the May 15 deadline to repatriate 69 containers of Canadian trash. He said it is “a sore point” for some of his constituents, many of whom have family in the Philippines and are embarrassed by Canada’s inaction.

MP Gord Jones

“I’m disappointed that we were not able to try to get this thing resolved before the May 15 deadline but it just wasn’t possible,” Lamoureux said.

“That recall shows that we are very serious in asking them to get back their garbage otherwise we’re gonna sever relations with them,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told a regular news conference.

Lamoureux said “it’s really sad that it’s gotten to this point.”

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada said it was disappointed by Duterte’s decision to recall the top diplomats, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday the Canadian government will continue to work on getting the garbage out of the Philippines.

“We very much hope to get to a resolution shortly,” Trudeau said in Paris.

Lamoureux said he met with the ambassador from the Philippines in Ottawa Monday about the issue and Petronila Garcia warned him that her government was serious about forcing an end to the dispute and that if the May 15 deadline wasn’t met, action would be taken.

Duterte set the deadline last month, after he threatened to “declare war” on Canada over the garbage. He said if Canada wasn’t going to take the garbage back, he would put it on a ship and send it over himself, dumping some of it outside the Canadian Embassy in Manila to underscore the point.

“Celebrate because your garbage is coming home,” he said on April 23. “Eat it if you want to.”

“Had he not made the statement that he made, I suspect through the bureaucracy they would continue to be moving at a snail pace,” Lamoureux said. “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind because of the president’s actions the government of Canada has come to the table, and we are expediting it.”

Lamoureux’s assessment was seconded by Philippine Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin, whose harsh tweets on the dispute have been one of the main sources of public information about the state of things. Locsin also blamed officials in the Philippines for allowing the matter to drag on for so long, saying nobody in the Philippines did anything about it until Duterte “laid down the law.”

Philippine Canadian News.com (PCN.Com) requested a comment from both the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa and the Philippine Consulate General in Vancouver but did not receive an answer by posting time.

Canada tried to either convince the Philippines to dispose of the trash locally or find another nearby country in Asia willing to take it, rather than have it shipped all the way back to Vancouver. Neither option was a success.

Trudeau was asked about the garbage on trips to the Philippines in both 2015 and 2017. In 2018, the two countries formed a working group to negotiate a solution. The main sticking point was who would pay for the shipments.

Two weeks after Duterte issued his threats, Canada agreed to cover the costs. The Philippines moved quickly to issue export permits and have the containers inspected for seaworthiness and Philippine officials blame red tape in Canada for delaying the movement.

Lamoureux said Canadian laws mean the garbage simply couldn’t just be moved overnight. He said Canada issued a public tender Monday seeking a company willing and able to bring the garbage back. He said Canada put a “national interest” tag on it to reduce the deadline for filing bids to just seven days, so it closes next week.

Lamoureux said he is hoping there will be a decision within two weeks and that the garbage will be Canada-bound before the end of June.

Sixty-nine of the original 103 containers remain in the ports, after the contents of the rest were handled locally at various points over the last six years. Environment groups in the Philippines and in Canada have staged protests, arguing Canada is violating international law by shipping garbage to another country without its permission.