Manila has recalled its ambassador to Canada, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Thursday, in an escalation of a festering diplomatic row over tons of trash shipped to the Philippines.
Ties have been deteriorating since a Canadian company sent around 100 shipping containers that included rotting rubbish wrongly labeled as recyclables to Philippine ports in 2013 and 2014.
READ: Canadian trash in containers still in Subic BayManila set a May 15 deadline for Canada to take the rotting trash back after President Rodrigo Duterte berated Ottawa over the issue last month.
READ: Canada gets PH ultimatum
Canada has since said it is working to arrange for the containers’ return but has not said when exactly that might happen.
Locsin said letters recalling the ambassador and consuls to Canada have been sent and the diplomats would be in Manila in a day or so.
“Canada missed the May 15 deadline. And we shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage is ship-bound there,” Locsin wrote on Twitter.
Canada’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
READ: Canada out to resolve trash issue with PH government
The garbage has strained ties between the two nations, which were already tested after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau questioned Duterte’s deadly drug crackdown.
Duterte bristles at any international criticism of his hardline policy, which has seen police kill thousands of alleged addicts and pushers since 2016.
Last year, Duterte canceled the military’s $235-million contract to buy 16 military helicopters from a Canada-based manufacturer after Ottawa put the deal under review because of the President’s human rights record.
During a speech in April, Duterte threatened to unilaterally ship the garbage back to Canada, saying “let’s fight Canada. I will declare war against them.”
Duterte frequently uses coarse language and hyperbole in speeches about opponents.
Following the comments, Canada offered to repatriate the waste and the Philippines said Ottawa would shoulder the expense of disposal.
The Bureau of Customs said last week the Philippines was ready to send back the waste but Canada needed several more weeks to prepare documentation.
Some 69 shipping containers of trash remain after 34 others have already been disposed of in the Philippines, the Finance department said.
Locsin said that even though the Palace appears amenable to a delay in the shipment of garbage back to Canada, it does not mean that the deadline has been extended.
The Palace said the more the Canadian government delays the retrieval of its garbage, the more Filipino personnel will be coming back to the Philippines.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Canada’s refusal to take back the garbage was “disruptive” of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“That recall shows that we are very serious in asking to get back their garbage. Otherwise, we’re going to sever relations with them,” he added.
Panelo slammed the Canadians for failing to show up at a scheduled meeting with the Department of Finance and Customs officials.
Canada also drew criticism from the environmental group Ecowaste Coalition, which expressed disappointment at Ottawa’s failure to take back its garbage. With AFP and PNA
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