Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte poses for photographers with an Israeli-made Galil rifle at Camp Crame in Quezon city, Philippines, on April 19, 2018. ( Photo – AP)

Updated: April 25, 2019, 1:17 PM

Duterte does a ‘Rambo’ over Canadian garbage


By Ted Alcuitas



While there are certainly valid reasons for one country to go to war against another, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte threatens to go to war over a stinking garbage.

Duterte is known for making ‘wars’ – his so-called drug wars, war against women, against the  poor, against the church and even God.

This latest outburst from his foul mouth is no surprise even if Canada is legally obligated to take back the rotting garbage back, according to environmental law experts.

Activists rally outside the Philippine Senate in Manila on Sept. 9, 2015 to demand that garbage containers be shipped back to Canada.Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images

While Canada is reticent on when to act on the issue, it is costing the Philippines an estimated P34 million ( $877, 558) for storing the garbage according to the Bureau of Customs as of November 13, 2018.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna responded that she’s hoping to figure out a way “in the coming weeks” to deal with heaps of unwanted, rotting garbage shipped to the Philippines by a Canadian company years ago.”

The Whitby, Ontario-based company, Chronic Inc. has  went bankrupt.

The Minister did not respond to our request for comment at the time of posting.

“We also need to do this in a positive way. That’s certainly the way we’re going forward. It has been a file that’s been going for a while. We’re very close to finding a solution,” she adds.

Canada is losing its credibility for not taking action, says a B.C. NDP Gord Johns who raised the issue in the House of Commons.

“Whether it is a legal issue for Canada or not, it’s a moral issue,” said Johns.

Whatever the outcome of Duterte’s threat , he is certainly scoring points locally and with some of Canada’s close to half a million Filipinos who support him.

The timing of his outrageous remarks was a calculated risk designed to boost his candidates in the coming May 13 mid-term elections. Two of his most trusted advisers – Christopher ‘Bong’ Go, his ‘alter-ego’ and former Army Chief Ronald Bato, the architect of the infamous ‘tokhang’, is running for senator.

Short of an armed invasion of Canada, the maverick Duterte could also consider a trade war instead. 

Messing with the trade relationship wouldn’t be a particularly smart one, Carlo Dade, a trade expert at the Canada West Foundation told The Vancouver Sun.

The Philippines has a surplus in the goods trade — it exports $1.3 billion of merchandise to Canada, more than double the $626 million Canada sends. However, Canada is home to more than 558,000 Philippines-born immigrants, according to 2016 census data. And Statistics Canada reported last week that Canadian residents sent $1.2 billion in remittances to the Philippines in 2017, more than to any other country, reports The Sun.

“It’s really the remittance angle, so, personal angle, that is the most important and the most vulnerable in the relationship. They don’t want anything upsetting remittance flows,” said Dade. “I don’t see this really going much more than a symbolic pissing contest.”

Kathleen Ruff, founder of, who sought the legal opinion on the garbage issue, said the opinion will be cited by advocates attending the biennial meeting about the Basel Convention in Switzerland later this month.

“I think Canada will be seen as a hypocrite,” Ruff said.

Duterte’s opposition calls his bluff a distraction from the many other important problems the country faces. He made the announcement in the midst of an earthquake that hit several parts of the country.

The loudest criticism is levelled against his inaction to fight back against China’s incroachment of the West Philippine Sea.

The country has not defeated a 50-year-old rebellion by the Communist Party of the Philippines which continues to be the biggest internal security threat.

New Peoples Army guerillas march in Davao City to celebrate the 48th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on December 26, 2016.(Rappler)


Instead, Duterte wants to fight Canada for a stinking garbage.

The Philippines had the distinct honour of mounting the first People Power uprising in the world when it toppled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 in a bloodless revolution.

Today, it could have the dubious honour of being the first country to start a war over garbage.