The cargo ship commissioned by the Canadian government to repatriate truckloads of garbage that Canada transported to the Philippines in batches from 2013 pulled away from the country on Friday morning, a port official said.
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"Finally, the containers of garbage transported from Canada and stored at the Subic Bay Freeport for several years have been pulled out as of today, May 31, 2019," Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma said in a statement.
"A total of 69 garbage-laden containers were loaded onto MV Bavaria, a Liberian-flagged container ship commissioned to ship the containers back to Canada," she added.
The loading of the 69 of the 103 shipping containers, which were mis-declared as recyclable plastics, was completed shortly after 3 a.m. local time on Friday, according to Philippine Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda.
The Canadian government assumed the costs associated with the preparation, transfer, shipment, and disposal of the waste which has been rotting for up to six years in ports in Manila and Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo City.
In last April, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at Canada for its inaction to remove the tons of garbage that a Canadian company exported in batches to two Philippine importers in 2013 and 2014.
The 103 containers contained a mixture of household waste, including plastic bottles, metals, paper, and used adult diapers.
Manila has demanded Canada to remove the trash by May 15 but Ottawa failed to comply.
A few hours after the deadline lapsed, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin recalled the Philippine ambassador and consuls general, saying that Manila will maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until the North American country collects the garbage.
After the cargo ship sailed away on Friday morning, Locsin took to Twitter to say that the recalled diplomats can now go back to Canada.
As a result of the diplomatic row over the garbage, Duterte ordered a total ban of waste materials from any foreign countries, instructing the Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) not to accept any garbage shipment in the future.
A few hours before the loading of garbage containers onto a cargo ship on Thursday, dozens of environmental activists held a rally inside the Subic Bay Freeport to demand strict implementation of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes, a 27-year-old international treaty designed to reduce and control the movement of hazardous wastes between countries.
The convention specifically prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from rich to developing countries. The Philippines and Canada are parties to the Basel Convention.
After Duterte's order to ban the importation of hazardous waste, the BOC discovered that South Korea also exported trash to the Philippines. The BOC reported that some 5,176 metric tons (MT) of waste was dumped in the southern Philippine Misamis Oriental in July and October last year.
The South Korean government said it will help ship back the containers full of waste materials, consisting of plastic synthetic flakes. ■