We normally do not write an editorial in reaction to an opinion piece in this paper or in another paper. But we thought of making an exception in this instance because the issue raised by Mr. Jojo Robles on the pages of the Manila Standard (“A stinking deal”) on Nov.17, 2017 is urgent and is a matter of the gravest importance.
In his column, Mr. Robles charged that the government of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd made an agreement with the Canadian government concerning the 200 tons of Canadian garbage brought illegally into the country and docked for two years now at Manila ports. Under the supposed agreement, the Philippines would bear with the garbage in exchange for the hiring of more than 500 Filipino nurses in Canada.
To forge a deal, he alleged that Malacanang had ordered Congress to stop both the Lower House and the Senate from conducting a probe into the garbage issue. The inquiry never took place, and we still have the garbage mess.
Our immediate response to this report was shock and indignation, but instead of writing an editorial comment immediately, we thought it would be better to check the facts of the matter first.
We now have obtained information as filed by one of our reporters, saying that the Canadian embassy in Manila denies having entered a deal with the Benigno Aquino 3rd administration involving the Philippines’ willingness to accept Canada’s garbage in exchange for jobs for Filipino nurses.
Ryan Webb, a political officer at the Canadian Embassy, told the Times reporter that there is no such deal between the two governments.
Webb said: “From our perspective that has no basis in reality. We already admit thousands of nurses to Canada. Filipino nurses are highly sought after.”
A flat denial, but what happens now to the 103 containers of “recyclable materials” that were shipped to Manila in 2013 by Chronic Inc., a private company in Ontario?
Webb said Canada is more than willing to work with Philippine authorities to facilitate the return of the garbage. He added that the Canadian government had been willing to pay a Canadian firm to have the garbage incinerated but that did not push through.
He said: “It was blocked by the Philippine courts. Of course, we want to follow Philippine (laws) and now I think it’s up to the Philippine courts to make a decision.”
This still does not solve the problem. The tons of Canadian garbage remain at the Manila ports, stinking to the heavens. There is still no solution in sight, because the expediency of political will remains missing.
Canada claims that it did not violate its own laws and even the Basel agreement on waste dumping, which specifies “hazardous” wastes as banned, not household material trash. That reasoning largely ignores the provision stated in the same treaty: “… and other wastes if the State of import does not consent in writing to the specific import,” as also constituting a violation. The Philippine government was not a party “giving consent” to the cross-border deal between the two private companies.
Canada must take back its garbage. Accepting responsibility for repatriating it back to its soil is better than indulging in talk about legal impediments and denials. That is the way to establish its sincerity and goodwill toward the Filipino people.