69 shipping containers of Canadian garbage leaves Philippines for Vancouver today

Mia Rabson - The Canadian Press

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OTTAWA — Sixty-nine shipping containers of fetid Canadian trash are being loaded onto a container ship in the Philippine port of Subic today.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin posted video and photos to his Twitter account showing the containers being loaded onto MV Bavaria.

“Going, going, going,” he said in one tweet.

The ship is expected to depart for Vancouver later today. Canada has previously said it expected the garbage to be back on Canadian soil by the end of June.

Canadian officials from the embassy in Manila are monitoring the loading.

A Canadian official confirmed the ship is hired under the $1.14-million contract Canada signed with the Canadian arm of French shipping giant Bollore Logistics to bring the garbage back to Canada. He said the containers were fumigated and cleaned before being loaded.

The garbage has become a diplomatic nightmare for the Canadian government as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte makes an example out of Canada for trying to dump its trash on his country. It has also become a symbol of the shadiness of the global recycling industry which sees millions of tonnes of plastics meant for recycling ending up in garbage dumps and incinerators overseas.

The Canadian containers arrived in the Philippines in 2013 and 2014 falsely labelled as being full of recycling plastics. Philippine customs authorities inspected the containers and discovered about two-thirds of the contents to be ordinary household garbage, including electronic waste and used diapers.

There were 103 containers and about 2,500 tonnes of waste originally, but 34 containers have been disposed of locally in the Philippines, despite the objections of local environment groups.

The EcoWaste Coalition in the Philippines and RightOnCanada issued a statement Thursday calling the return of the garbage a “victory for the rule of law, morality and the environment.”

Aileen Lucero, national co-ordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said she feels “jubilant” that the six-year battle to get the garbage returned is finally over.

“The Philippines is not the world’s dumpsite,” she said. “Never again shall we allow other countries to trash our dignity, our people’s health and the environment.”

Canada’s Liberals blame the former Conservative government for the original problem: the garbage arrived in the Philippines during prime minister Stephen Harper’s time in office. The Conservatives first tried to get the Philippines to deal with it there or find another Asian nation willing to accept the waste.

The Philippines began emptying the containers in July 2015 but stopped following a public outcry.

The Liberals have been negotiating with the Philippines about the garbage for the last three-and-a-half years, finally agreeing to bring the remaining waste back and pay for the shipments in April, after Duterte threatened to “declare war” on Canada. When a May 15 deadline for the trash to leave came and went without action, the Philippines recalled its ambassador and consuls general until the trash was gone.

Locsin has said many times that the Philippines would ship the trash out itself after Canada missed the deadline but the Canadian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said that was really just an empty threat. He said Locsin was never in favour of the Philippines taking over shipping responsibilities and was helping co-ordinate the work on the ground for Canada to do it.

Canada says it now has regulations that would prevent Canadian companies from sending trash to unsuspecting countries but Malaysian officials this week said there are 60 containers of foreign trash in its ports that it wants sent back to their origin, including one from Canada. Canada is investigating that claim.

The company that sent the containers to the Philippines, Chronic Inc., based in Whitby, Ont., appears to be dormant.