|In this May 7, 2015, file photo, Filipino environmental activists wear a mock container filled with garbage to symbolize the containers of waste that were shipped from Canada to the Philippines, as they protest outside the Canadian Embassy in Manila. AP|
By Jung Min-ho
|Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau / AP|
Their demand came after the Korean government decided last week to take responsibility for the 6,500 tons of plastic garbage illegally shipped to the Philippines last year by returning it to Korea.
"Illegal waste from Canada has been rotting in the Philippines since 2013 and it is high time that Canada follow Korea's lead and finally take responsibility by taking back the remaining trash in Manila and ensuring this cannot happen again," Sarah King, the chief of Greenpeace Canada's oceans and plastics campaign, told The Korea Times.
"The Canadian government must resolve the issue of the Canadian trash in the Philippines and ensure that Canadian companies cannot and will not dump our plastic waste on other countries that are already struggling under a momentous plastic crisis of their own."
Chronic Inc., an Ontario-based plastics exporter, illegally sent about 100 shipping containers of largely residual household garbage ― declared as scrap plastics for recycling ― to Manila in 2013 and 2014, according to local media. Some of the waste was later dumped at a private landfill in Capas, Tarlac, angering provincial officials and nearby residents.
In 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it is "theoretically" possible to ship the waste back to Canada, but he did not make a full commitment to do so.
When asked about progress, Marilyne Lavoie, a spokeswoman at Environment and Climate Change Canada, said the government's attempts did not succeed.
"The government of Canada did not have the authority to compel the exporting company to return or re-route the shipment from the Philippines or to take possession of the shipment," Lavoie said. "However, Canada undertook to work with the exporter and the government of the Philippines to find a solution to the unwanted shipment."
But the people of the Philippines are running out of patience.
On Jan. 6, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III urged Trudeau once again to take prompt action to solve the problem.
"The Canadian prime minister promised to resolve the matter when he came here for the 31st ASEAN Summit in November 2017," Pimentel said. "There's been no follow through ever since. We need immediate and concrete action on this.
"We're not someone else's dumping ground. The Philippines should assert its dignity and co-equal standing as a sovereign state in the community of nations. We should not be seen as a recipient, officially or unofficially, of waste material coming from other countries."
The Canadian government claims legal barriers and restrictions prevent progress being made, but critics say the government is simply "not willing enough."
In fact, the Korean government faced the same issue when a private company did not take the garbage back from the Philippines. Eventually, the Environment Ministry decided to take care of it on its own.
"We can no longer afford corporations' throwaway plastic business models," King said. "The Philippines case is a stark reminder that there truly is no such thing as throwing something 'away.' We live in one world and that world is rapidly overflowing with plastic trash."