In 2013, Philippine customs authorities impounded 50 containers of waste from Canada and left them to rot in ports for two years.
Manila has conveyed its objection to the shipment to the Canadian government through at least two diplomatic notes. Canada has refused to take action, insisting the shipment was a private transaction and not backed by its government.
“I have obviously been made aware of the situation and I’ve also been told that there is a Canadian solution in the process of being developed,” Trudeau said in a press conference in Manila where he attended a summit of leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Trudeau acknowledged that the incident in the Philippines exposed a “problem” that “needs fixing” within Canada’s own legislation “that we’re going to lean into and make sure it happens.”
“I believe there are loopholes here that were allowed to be skirted that we need to make sure we close, both for Canada’s interest and for our good relationships with our neighbors,” he said.
In the previous diplomatic notes, the Philippines urged the Canadian government to assist with the re-exportation of the containers.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Customs have called on Canada to “re-visit” its domestic regulations on the illegal export of waste to other countries and to remind it of its commitments under international treaties, specifically the Basel Convention.
The convention prevents the movement of hazardous waste between nations, specifically its transfer from developed to least developed states.
Trudeau vowed not to let the Philippine incident happen again.
“Well, I think, going forward, we need to ensure that if a situation like this were to arise once again that the Canadian government has more power to actually demand action from the companies responsible,” he said. Environmentalists were dissatisfied with Trudeau’s statement on the garbage issue.
In a statement, EcoWaste Coalition Vice President Renato Pineda, said Trudeau should issue an order for the “immediate return to Canada of the illegal trash shipments while his government [is still thinking] of a … solution to solve the … dumping scandal.”
Pineda argued that, “the illegal garbage imports have nowhere to go, but Canada and the development of a [so-called] ‘Canadian solution’ should not be used as an excuse to justify the extended stay of the trash consignments in the country for temporary storage or permanent disposal.”
“Prime Minister Trudeau must have been made aware that the Basel Convention has become part of the laws of countries that acceded to it through their ratification. And that their enabling law cannot be inferior to the Convention,” he added.
Pineda was referring to a legally-binding treaty called the “Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal,” which had Canada and the Philippines as among the signatories.
According to Pineda, “when [Trudeau] admits the loopholes in Canada’s enabling law – that’s an indictment of their violation of the Basel Convention. As no amount of amendment to Canada’s law would extricate them from culpability and international shame, Trudeau should have seized the golden opportunity to display real statesmanship required of every leader and commit to re-importing Canada’s garbage. What a waste, what a shame!”