OPINION: Welcome to the Philippines, Mr. Trudeau, now take your garbage home when you leave

Photos from ABS-CBN News

Two years after the Asia Pacific Economoic Cooperative (APEC) Summit was held here in Manila, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is back in the city for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.

And once again, the country — and probably the world — is fawning over him.

We get it. He’s cute, polite, articulate, friendly, and seems to espouse a more liberal ideology in a world where populism is spreading like wildfire.

Even for the opposition in the Philippines and the United States, Trudeau may seem like a ray of hope in the darkness.

However, we’d be wise to heed the advice of a recent opinion piece in The Guardian, which warned the world to stop swooning over Trudeau, because he’s “a disaster for the planet.”

How so, you ask?

As it turns out, the Philippines is a prime example of just how irresponsible Trudeau and the Canadian government’s treatment of the environment can be.

In 2013, Philippines customs officials found that 103 containers from Canada, which were thought to be carrying recyclable plastics, actually contained 1,300 tons of trash including adult diapers and other waste.

Some of Canada’s waste has already been moved to a garbage dump in Tarlac province. Photo by ABS-CBN News

At least 77 containers of the trash still sit in ports in Manila and Subic, Zambales in Central Luzon. 

Two years after visiting the country, what has Canada done to address the problem? Nothing.

When asked by ABS-CBN News anchor Tina Monzon Palma in 2015 what he intended to do with the trash, Trudeau skirted the question. 

“I know that this has exposed a problem that needs fixing within our own legislation that we’re going to lean into and make sure happens,” he told the news anchor.

She followed up the question and asked him what law he thought was necessary and what he would do, Trudeau, again, avoided the question.

“Well, I think, going forward, we need to ensure that if a situation like this were to arise once again that the Canadian government has more power to actually demand action from the companies responsible,” the prime minister told Palma.

“I believe there are loopholes here that were allowed to be skirted that we need to make sure we close, both for Canada’s interest and for our good relationships with our neighbors.”

That’s all well and good. But the trash remains.

According to a report in the Inquirer, the shipment came from an Ontario-based waste company called Chronic Inc., who declared the items in the containers as recyclables.

Philippine environmental groups and then-presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte himself called on the former Aquino administration to lodge a diplomatic complaint against the Canadian government in 2015.

While the waste-management company may have incorrectly declared the content of the containers (or simply lied about it), as far as the Canadian government is concerned, the shipment was legal.

A spokesperson for Canada’s environment ministry told Inquirer.net in a statement: “Since the contents of the shipment to the Philippines were materials collected from households, the shipment was not illegal under Canadian regulations.”

One of 103 container vans that arrived in the Philippines in 2013 with Canada’s garbage. Photo by ABS-CBN News

Now that he’s back, let’s remind Mr. Trudeau that the Philippines is not Canada’s garbage dump.

If we can’t get the message to him, President Duterte is now in a position to do what he asked of Aquino in 2015 and launch a diplomatic protest against Canada for leaving us with its trash.

Also, isn’t it about time to investigate who exactly accepted the shipment on the Philippines’ end? Four years after the garbage came, the public is still in the dark.

Mr. Trudeau, we welcome you back to Manila, but when you leave, please take your country’s garbage home with you.

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