Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at a press conference on his drug war at Malacanang palace in Manila, January 30, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Ezra Acayan

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened “war” with Canada over tons of trash a Canada-based company shipped to Manila several years ago.

“I’ll give a warning to Canada maybe next week that they better pull that (trash) out,” he said on April 24, according to press reports. “We’ll declare war against them, we can handle them anyway,” he said.

Between 2013 and 2014 Canada shipped 103 containers of trash to the Philippines and has since pushed the country to dispose of it, reports said.

The containers were labeled as plastics for recycling, but Philippine inspectors found the garbage was not recyclable.

The garbage reportedly consists of electronic and household waste, reports said. Another inspection of the remaining containers in 2015 found they contained non-hazardous municipal waste, including household and street garbage.

Philippine officials first raised the issue with Canada in 2014. South Korea also stands accused by environmental groups of exporting non-recyclable trash to the Philippines.

The trash was declared illegal by a Philippine court in 2016 as the private Canada-based company responsible for shipping the cargo didn’t have import clearances, reports said. The judgement ruled that the waste should be exported back to Canada at the importer’s expense.

Some of the containers are still at the port of Manila while others have been dumped in landfills. The Philippine government has said the containers have caused port congestion and are a hazard to public health, the BBC reported.

Developed countries have long shipped recyclable waste to poorer developing countries for processing. Last year, China moved to ban “foreign garbage” as a way to reduce environmental damage. The amount of plastics it has imported fell by 94% between 2016 and 2018, the BBC reported.

The unexpected restrictions have reportedly led to recycling waste piling up in developed countries with nowhere to send it.

“I cannot understand why they are making us a dump site,” Duterte said, warning that he would sail to Canada and dump the trash there himself. “Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to,” he said. “Your garbage is coming home.”

The Philippines has called for years on Canada to repatriate its trash, reports said. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the past that he was “very much engaged in finding a solution” to the dumped waste.

When Trudeau visited Manila in 2015, he said that a “Canadian solution” was being developed and said the situation would not occur again, according to reports at the time. In 2016, Canada amended its regulations on hazardous waste shipments to prevent a recurrence of its Philippine experience.

Duterte’s threat to launch a war against Canada marks the Philippine leader’s latest empty threat of war. This month, he threatened to send troops on “suicide missions” over China’s harassment of Manila-occupied features in the South China Sea. None, of yet, have been launched.

– this dispatch draws on news agency reports

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