MANILA - Canada affirmed Wednesday its commitment to working with the Philippine government to address the problem on a private firm’s trash shipment to Manila several years ago, keeping silent on President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to "declare war" over the issue.
A Manila court last year ordered a Canadian private importer to take back 50 garbage containers that allegedly contain toxic waste shipped to the country in 2013 and 2014.
"Canada is strongly committed to collaborating with the Government of the Philippines to resolve this issue," the Canadian Embassy said in a statement, adding that it is aware of the court decision.
A joint technical working group of Philippine and Canadian officials "is examining the full spectrum of issues related to the removal of the waste," it said.
Ottawa earlier said it had no authority to compel a private shipper to return the shipment to Canada.
Duterte on Tuesday said he wants the waste taken back in a week or he would "set sail for Canada" and dump their garbage back there.
"Let's fight Canada. I will declare war against them," added the President, who frequently uses coarse language and hyperbole in public speeches.
The Canadian Embassy did not address Duterte's threat, but noted instead that Manila and Ottawa "are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations."
"The relationship is built on strong people-to-people ties, our common interest in strengthening political, economic and cultural relations and in our mutual commitment to peace," it said.
Apart from the garbage row, ties between the 2 countries also soured after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017 raised concerns over Duterte's drug war.
Last year, Duterte cancelled a $233-million military chopper deal with Canada.
A total of 103 containers of Canadian waste, consisting of household trash, plastic bottles and bags, newspapers, and used adult diapers, arrived in Manila in batches from 2013 to 2014.
Trash from at least 26 containers have been buried in a Tarlac landfill.
Chronic Plastics Inc., the Valenzuela-based consignee, was accused of violating Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and the 1995 Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Disposal.
The garbage was misdeclared as plastic scraps.
“I cannot understand why they are making us a dumpsite,” Duterte said Tuesday.