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DOLE mulls over recall of attachés

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III is considering the possibility of withdrawing Philippine labor attachés in Canada due to an escalating row over the tons of garbage dumped in the Philippines.

READ: PH-Canada rift widens; Filipino envoys recalled

The Labor secretary, who made the threat over a radio interview, however, said he was still studying the recall of labor attaches if the relationship with Canada would not improve.

“This is not just the issue over trash but the connection to the dignity of our country,” he said.

“If it’s just trash, why doesn’t Canada just take it back? First of all, bringing the trash here is wrong. We are not a garbage dump. That’s not right.,” Bello said.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin earlier ordered the recall of diplomats in Canada after the said country missed the May 15 deadline to retrieve the waste.

Bello even took a swipe on the past administration for the garbage issue, saying “I don’t know why the previous administration allowed that.”

Bello said overseas Filipino workers going to Canada or are already in Canada would not be affected by the issue—with more than 800,000 Filipinos living and working in Canada.

Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would “sail to Canada and dump their garbage there.”

The tons of garbage contained in more than 50 container vans filled with common household rubbish arrived in the Philippines between 2013 and 2014 which were declared as recyclable plastics.

“Canada missed the... deadline. And we shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage is [shipped back] there,” Locsin said in a tweet.

On Thursday, Canada vowed to work closely with the Philippines to send back tons of garbage that had been shipped to Philippine ports in 2013 and 2014.

The Canadian government issued this statement after the Philippines recalled ranking Filipino envoys from their posts in Canada.

“Canada is disappointed by this decision to recall the Philippine ambassador and consuls general. However, we will continue to closely engage with the Philippines to ensure a swift resolution of this important issue,” Guillaume Bérubé, spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said in an e-mail sent to the government-run Philippine News Agency.

READ: Canada out to resolve trash issue with PH government

Bérubé provided no estimate when the containers of trash will be pulled out but reiterated Canada’s “commitment to promptly ship and dispose of the Canadian waste.”

“We remain committed to finalizing these arrangements for the return of the waste to Canada,” he said. “Canada values its deep and long-standing relationship with the Philippines.”

Global Affairs Canada, which manages Ottawa’s diplomatic relations and trade, is headed by ministers, including Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The diplomatic rift between the two countries threatened to escalate after the Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday night recalled its ambassador and consuls from Canada.

Ottawa missed the deadline set by the government on May 15, 2019, said DFA chief Teodoro Locsin, Jr.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the order was to persuade Canada to speed up the process of retrieving more than 100 containers of waste that had been shipped in batches to the Port of Manila from 2103 to 2014.

“That order of the recall is to persuade them to make it fast. The more they delay, the more personnel will be coming back,” he said.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, meanwhile, said the row over garbage would not affect trade relations between the two countries.

“I think that’s really a separate issue because it’s already being solved. They’re working out plans so I really don’t think it will affect trade relations,” Lopez said in Filipino.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said Friday the dumping of toxic garbage smacked of arrogance and said it was right to pull out the country’s diplomats in Canada.

“National dignity is part and parcel of diplomacy,” Lacson said.

The Philippines recalled its ambassador Petronila Garcia and consul generals in Canada after the Canadian government missed the May 15 deadline to ship back trash sent to the Philippines six years ago.

The tons of garbage were loaded inside 103 containers which were sent to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014. They were mislabeled as recyclable plastic scraps and consisted largely of kitchen scraps and diapers as well as electronic waste.

Part of the garbage shipment, in 26 containers, was buried in a Tarlac landfill.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III called for a Senate investigation into the local importer or consignee of the trash. He said the local contact or consignee must also be held accountable.

Last month, Duterte threatened to “declare war” against Canada over the garbage issue.

“I will declare war against them. I will advise Canada that your garbage is on the way. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to. Your garbage is coming home,” the President said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been quizzed about the garbage during his visits to the country but gave no satisfactory answer.

In 2017, he said it was “theoretically possible for Canada to deal with the trash.” With PNA

Topics: Silvestre Bello III , labor attachés , Teodoro Locsin , Rodrigo Duterte
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