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Environmental activists rally outside the Philippine Senate in Manila back in 2015, to demand that 100 containers filled with household rubbish be shipped back to Canada.

Philippines threaten war then proceed to shoot themselves in the foot

PortandTerminal.com, May 17, 2019

Manila, Philippines – Last month, the Philippines’ bellicose President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to declare war on Canada. This week the Philippines escalated its dispute with Canada by recalling its ambassador and consulate heads over a row concerning 100 containers of garbage stuck at the Port of Manila.

Tweet by Teodoro Locsin Jr, Foreign Secretary of the Philippines

What’s the background?

The containers were labelled as plastics for recycling, but inspectors in the Philippines found that the garbage was not recyclable

According to a report by CNN Philippines, 103 containers holding 2,450 tons of supposedly recyclable material were shipped to the Philippines in 2013 to 2014 from by a now-defunct Canadian company.

The trash was declared illegal as the private Canada-based company responsible for shipping the cargo didn’t have import clearances and the containers were actually just full of plain old, unrecyclable trash.

For the past six years, the containers have been sitting at the Port of Manila rotting away.

Celebrate, because your trash is coming home. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines

Canada’s Prime Justin Trudeau promised to have the 100 containers shipped back to Canada but apparently not fast enough for President Duarte who demanded that it be removed by May 15th or else. The May 15th deadline was missed by Canada.

What’s happening now?

Another politician in the Philippines named Ping Lacson ratcheted up the tough talk this week by insulting Canada on Twitter calling the country “arrogant” and full of “misplaced superiority”. He went on to threaten the importers in the Philippines who had been duped by the Canadian company in the first place.

How did they shoot themselves in the foot?

In recent years the Philippines has been the greatest source of immigrants to Canada. Their remittances home is an important part of the Philippines’ economy

The fact is, the Philippines need Canada a lot more than Canada need them.

The number of Canadians of Filipino descent has grown quickly over the past decade and as of 2016, more than 850,000 now call Canada home. Remittances sent back to the Philippines by Filipino-Canadians working in Canada are a vital part of the economy in the Philippines.

The Philippine economy is in a sound position today in part because of the steady growth and size of remittances of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) to the country. 

Office of the President of the Philippines

In relative terms, Canada doesn’t export much to the Philippines. In 2018 Canada exported just $US 753 million worth of goods to the Philippines ranking it #28 on Canada’s list of export markets. The Philippines, on the other hand, exported $US 1.4 billion to Canada in 2018.

What next?

“Canadians are polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.” Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau (on right in photo)

Philippine-Canada relations have soured in the past two years despite growing immigration ties between the two countries. The recent rhetoric and insults from the Philippine leadership aren’t helping.

Canada will eventually remove the offending containers from the Philippines, but don’t expect the behaviour of its boorish politicians to be forgotten anytime soon by Canada.

President Duerte though is justified in his frustration with Canada. Canada must have these containers removed soonest. As two ocean facing nations with a stake in maritime, let’s hope that the two countries move beyond the current silliness asap.

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