Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he reassured Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that Ottawa is searching for a way to dispose of thousands of tons of Canadian trash languishing in the port of Manila.
The household waste, which includes soiled diapers, has been rotting in about 100 shipping containers at the port for four years.
The stranded Canadian garbage is a well-known concern in the Philippines — it’s been making headlines for years and has even been the subject of protests by environmental groups.
Speaking to reporters in Manila, Trudeau says the issue is a long-standing irritant rooted in a commercial transaction that didn’t involve government.
The shipments were allowed into the Philippines because they were disguised as recyclable plastics, but upon inspection customs officers discovered they were stuffed with reeking household trash.
Trudeau says it’s now theoretically possible the trash could be repatriated by Canada, although there’s still questions around who will pay for it.
He says his government has already removed a legal hurdle that had prevented the waste from being returned to Canada.
“I committed to him, as I’m happy to commit to you all now, that Canada is very much engaged in finding a solution on that,” Trudeau said in reference to his discussion with Duterte.
“I expressed to President Duterte, and I have the assurance of my officials both here in the Philippines and back in Canada, that we will continue to work on this and hopefully resolve this situation.”
In 2014, the Philippine government recommended the containers be returned to Canada under the provisions of the Basel Convention, which prohibits developed countries from shipping waste to developing nations.
This recommendation came after the customs bureau warned the material could be hazardous and impounded the shipments.
Francisco Fernandez, the deputy chief of mission at the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa, said the case is still before the courts in the Philippines. The case is expected to determine whether the waste can be disposed of in the Philippines.
Estimates in local news reports say there could be as much as 2,500 tons of trash in 103 shipping containers.