At the end of June, Ottawa will ship tons of waste to Canada from the Philippines

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Environmentalists march out of the Canadian Embassy to ask the Canadian government to speed up the removal of several garbage containers that were shipped to the country on May 21, 2019.

Bullit Marquez / The Associated Press

The federal government has hired a private company to bring back tons of Canadian garbage to Canada from the Philippines after the Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, said he was ready to "declare war" on the garbage.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced Wednesday that the government has awarded Bolloré Logistics Canada a contract to bring back to Canada trucks loaded with mixed waste, including adult diapers. The company will prepare the containers in the coming days and the garbage will be removed from the Philippines by the end of June. Ottawa will pay the company over $ 1.1 million to cover the costs of preparing, transferring, shipping and disposing of waste.

"Canada appreciates its long and longstanding relationship with the Philippines and has worked closely with the Philippine authorities to find a mutually acceptable solution," said Ms. McKenna. "Canada is pleased to announce that it has awarded a contract to promptly report waste and ensure its safe and environmentally friendly disposal."

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The announcement arrived a few hours after Mr. Duterte's spokesperson held a press conference to announce that Filipino officials had been ordered to look for a private shipping company to transport garbage to Canadian territory. Salvador Panelo said the Philippines will cover the cost of shipping.

"The Filipino people are seriously insulted by Canada, which considers this country a landfill," said Panelo.

However, it is not clear why the Philippines announced plans to hire a company when Canada intended to do so. Ms. McKenna's office said that Manila was informed of Canada's decision to hire Bolloré Logistics Canada before the contract was announced. The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines did not respond to a request for comment.

Last week, the Philippines intensified the waste dispute, recalling the heads of the ambassador and consulate when Ottawa failed to meet the May 15 deadline, imposed by Mr. Duterte, to remove the garbage.

The dispute began when a Canadian company sent 103 badly labeled containers, which were to contain recyclable plastic, to the Manila international container terminal more than five years ago. The Philippine authorities have discovered mixed waste in containers, including household waste and used adult diapers, and Manila has since asked Canada to return the garbage.

The contents of 34 containers was finally disposed of by the Philippines, but 69 remain in Manila.

Ms. McKenna said the government is trying to hold Chronic Inc., a Whitby-based plastics exporter, which the government says is now out of the market to account.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has stated that Canada has been in constant contact with Manila in this regard.

"I was pleased to speak with my counterpart, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, last week to reaffirm Canada's firm commitment to repatriate waste promptly to Canada," Ms Freeland said in a statement.

The waste arrived in Manila while the conservatives were in power, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to deal with the matter. When asked about garbage during visits to Manila in 2015 and 2017, he said he couldn't do anything about it because it was a private business transaction.

The Pacific Center for Environmental Law and Litigation, a non-profit legal group, recently produced a legal opinion stating that Canada has violated the Basel Convention, which controls international trade and the disposal of dangerous goods, not taking up the junk. Anthony Ho, a Pacific Center associate, said Canada's slow response has baffled environmental activists.

"Was the question really because it took so long, particularly when our federal government was elected to feed a program to advance environmental issues?" Mr. Ho said.

Earlier this month, Canada and 186 other countries agreed to amend the Basel Convention to reduce the amount of plastic in the oceans and force developed countries to manage their garbage instead of exporting it.

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With the Associated Press files

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