June 02, 2019
Diplomacy, more than gamesmanship, has made possible the government this week winning its demand that Canada get back tons of trash that it shipped to the Philippines six years ago.
Tact of a different kind it was, however, with the Duterte administration opting to observe international protocols, rather than pushing the garbage issue with Ottawa belligerently.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, though, had seemed to take the matter less seriously than what had been expected of him, a defender of the environment that he was reputed to be.
Trudeau was accused of delaying the repatriation of more than 60 trash-filled container vans, having pointed to a private firm from Ontario as the shipper of the unwanted cargo in an apparent bid to show that the issue was not really a concern of Ottawa.
It was notable that Canada amended its regulations around hazardous waste shipments in 2016 to prevent any more such cargo ending up in other countries like the Philippines.
But it did not make Trudeau move more decisively to end the dirty affair, a missed opportunity for him to underscore that his country cares for the environment as it does for the more than 900,000 Filipinos whom it had welcomed to its shores.
After a number of deadlines that the Canadian government itself had set for the trip back home of the garbage elapsed without Ottawa committing to a specific date to bring home the trash to
North America, President Rodrigo Duterte evidently decided that Trudeau pussyfooting about the issue called for a drastic action.
It has to be pointed out that the President did not use the trash issue as a retaliation for Trudeau raising a howl over the allegedly extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs.
At the risk of breaking cordial relations between Ottawa and Manila, the President recalled Filipino diplomatic officials posted in the embassy in Ottawa and the consulates in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver.
The gamble worked, with the Canadian government finally sending a ship to the Subic freeport to load the garbage on Friday and immediately sailing back to Vancouver in a voyage that would take three weeks.
It resulted in Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. ordering the recalled Philippine envoys also on Friday to return to their posts in the embassy and the consulates.
That the President exercised his sovereign duty to assert the right of the country to determine what comes in and what goes out is an example of foreign policy pursued in the name of Filipinos and their interests, whether economic, social, political or environmental.
It would probably embolden a number of countries that reportedly have become dumping ground for unwanted refuse to apply the Duterte gamble in also demanding that garbage should be disposed of by those who produce it.
Arguably, local and foreign pro-environment groups played a significant role in resolving the garbage stand-off, and we believe their contribution should be acknowledged.
The environment is not actually the winner in this dirty episode in Philippine-Canadian ties but Philippine sovereignty,
And the Philippine government proved that where there is a will, there is a way, but that it would turn out in favor of the country only if its leaders put more bite into it.
Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net