OTTAWA — The Philippines is slowly normalizing diplomatic relations with Canada now that the trash tiff of 2019 has come to a close.
There is no word yet on a return to Canada of the Philippine ambassador or consuls general, who were withdrawn until Canada took back a big load of garbage that had been festering in Philippine ports.
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But Philippines Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea — President Rodrigo Duterte’s right hand — issued a memo to department heads and government corporations June 4 saying a ban on travel to Canada and on interactions with Canadian officials is over.
“In view of the Canadian government’s retrieval and reshipment to Canada of the containers of garbage … please be informed that such directive is hereby lifted, effective immediately,” Medialdea wrote.
Dozens of containers full of garbage set sail May 30, nearly six years after they first arrived in the Philippines falsely labelled as plastics for recycling. Canada contracted a French shipping company to carry out the task and the garbage is now headed across the Pacific Ocean to the port of Vancouver, where it’s expected to arrive around June 30.
Once in Canada the garbage is to be taken to a waste-to-energy facility in Burnaby, B.C. and burned.
Canada had no legal mechanism to force the Canadian company behind the shipment to return the containers to Canada, and spent many years trying to convince the Philippines to dispose of it there.
The dispute came to a head in April when Duterte threatened to declare war on Canada if the trash wasn’t returned. (That was a threat without real substance used to underscore his anger, his spokesman said.) Duterte did recall the diplomats and issued the travel and interaction bans when Canada missed a May 15 deadline for taking the trash back.
Duterte’s spokesman said in May he expected the Philippine diplomats to return to Canada once the trash was gone.
Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux said Thursday he is hoping Ambassador Petronila Garcia will be back to attend a Philippine Independence Day event in Ottawa next week but he isn’t sure yet whether she will be.