Philippines: Duterte Threatens to Declare War on Canada over Trash Dump

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) talks to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (R) before the opening ceremony of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila on November 13, 2017. World leaders are in the Philippines' capital for two days of summits. / AFP PHOTO / AFP …
MARK R. CRISTINO/AFP/Getty Images

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to “declare war” on Canada in remarks Tuesday, claiming he would personally sail across the Pacific and dump tons of trash onto the nation if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not agree to take back the garbage it had sent to the island nation.

Duterte was speaking at a briefing regarding a recent earthquake that struck the island of Luzon, where Manila is located.

Canada shipped over 100 containers of unrecyclable household trash to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014, claiming it to be recyclable plastics. Philippine authorities were outraged to discover upon opening them that they contained trash; Canada has refused to take them back even though the Trudeau government acknowledged Canada violated the United Nations Basel Convention on shipping garbage, changed Canadian law to ensure it does not happen again, and promised a “Canadian process” to solve the problem, according to the Philippine Star.

The “Canadian process” has largely been to urge the Philippines to keep the trash.

Calling Canadian government officials “crazies,” Duterte announced that the trash would return to Canada next week no matter what.

“I want a boat prepared. I’ll give a warning to Canada maybe next week that they better pull that thing out or I will set sail, there in Canada, I will dump their trash there,” Duterte declared. “I will declare war against them. I will advise Canada that your garbage is on the way. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to.”

“Your garbage is coming home,” he proclaimed.

“They have been sending their trash to us. Well, not this time. We will quarrel with each other. So what if we quarrel with Canada? We’ll declare war against them, we can beat them,” the president added. “Crazies. They are pushing us around. I won’t let that happen.”

“I cannot understand why they are making us a dump site,” he concluded.

Duterte said he would give the Canadian government one week before either declaring war or dumping all the trash in front of the Canadian embassy in Manila.

Canada’s government has responded in a statement to national broadcaster CBC that it is “strongly committed” to ending the dispute.

“Canada is strongly committed to collaborating with the Philippines government to resolve this issue and is aware of the court decision ordering the importer to ship the material back to Canada,” a spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna said. “A joint technical working group, consisting of officials from both countries, is examining the full spectrum of issues related to the removal of the waste with a view to a timely resolution.”

Duterte has long objected to the Trudeau administration, though Canada and the Philippines have no major disputes aside from waste disposal issues. Trudeau challenged Duterte during an in-person meeting in 2017, chiding him over reports that his campaign against drug trafficking was violating the human rights of Filipinos by killing drug suspects without due process. Duterte responded with a public rant calling Trudeau’s remarks “bullshit.”

Trudeau had claimed that Duterte was “receptive” to his comments before the tirade.

“[I]t is a personal and official insult. That is why you hear me chewing down curses, epithets, nagmumura (cursing), bullshit and everything because it angers me when you are a foreigner you do not know what is happening in this country,” Duterte told reporters.

“I only answer to the Filipino. I will not answer to any other bullshit, especially foreigners. Lay off,” Duterte said.

His most recent tirade against Canada has attracted criticism from local politicians who wonder why Duterte is so eager to attack Canada but does not speak similarly regarding China’s repeated attempted to invade and colonize parts of the Philippines. China claims most of the South China Sea, including significant parts of Philippine sovereign territory, and has constructed military and domestic facilities there despite a 2016 international tribunal finding the construction illegal.

Duterte ordered his government to stop demanding China abide by the ruling, though he had previously threatened to personally “jet-ski” to the disputed territory and fight the Chinese military.

“Canada has been a friend … Garbage is an issue, but the territories as well … are more important,” opposition candidate Samira Gutoc said on Wednesday, according to Rappler. “He should employ his aggressive language on China, so this posturing of his, sir, you target those who need it more, apply your political [power] against people who take our territories.”

Another candidate, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, said the Canadian trash issue was a “distraction” from “the creeping invasion of China, the jobs, land, and food being taken away from Filipinos by Chinese nationals, as well the rising prices of commodities.”

Duterte left the Philippines to travel to Beijing for an in-person meeting with Chinese communist leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday, shortly after threatening Canada.

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