A spokesperson for Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday played down an apparent declaration of war against Canada, arguing that it was merely a “figure of speech.”
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo clarified that Duterte does not plan to go to war with Ottawa, but that he was serious about his demands that the Canadian government return a garbage shipment illegally sent to the country in 2013.
“That was an expression of outrage couched in a very strong term,” Panelo told reporters during a press briefing at Manila’s presidential palace, Malacañang. “I don’t think any country would want to trigger another world war where all of us will get annihilated.”
“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 said last week. “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.”
Last week, Malacañang released a statement warning Canada’s failure to return the garbage illegally placed in the Philippines was damaging relations between the two countries.
“The seventy years of diplomatic relations between the two countries will be put to naught if Canada will not act with dispatch and finality the resolution of this undiplomatic episode to which we take outrage,” Panelo said.
The Canadian embassy in Manila has since confirmed that experts are “examining a full spectrum of issues relating to the removal of the waste with a view to a timely resolution.”
“We are committed to working collaboratively with the Government of the Philippines to ensure the material is processed in an environmentally responsible way,” they said in a statement.
Duterte has previously clashed with the Canadian government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In 2017, Duterte launched a tirade against the left-wing leader after Trudeau challenged him about alleged human rights violations amid his brutal crackdown on the drug trade.
“[I]t is a personal and official insult,” Duterte ranted at the time. “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.”
It is also not the first time that Malacañang has been forced to backtrack comments made by Duterte, who regularly issues violent threats against those he disagrees with. In 2017, Duterte announced he had ordered the expulsion of all Ambassadors from European Union countries after the body expressed concerns about human rights abuses under his administration.
“Now the ambassadors of those countries listening now: tell me because we can have the diplomatic channel cut tomorrow. You leave my country in 24 hours. All of you. You must have taken the Filipino for granted,” he warned. The Palace later clarified that there was no formal directive for such action, describing it as a “mere expression of outrage.”