Canada has agreed to remove 69 containers filled with rubbish which were illegally shipped to the Philippines.
Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister, has awarded a contract to Bollore Logistics Canada to return the containers of household waste and electronic garbage that were shipped to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014.
Over the course of those two years, at least 103 containers of household rubbish were shipped in batches to the Philippines, where officials say they were falsely declared by a private firm as recyclable plastics.
Of those, 34 containers were dealt with by the authorities, but the remaining 69 are in two ports in Manila and northern Subic Freeport.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered his officials to look for a private shipping company which would transport the waste back to Canada earlier this week.
He also said he was ready to “declare war” over the issue.
Salvador Panelo, one of his spokesmen, said: “If Canada will not accept their trash, we will leave the same within its territorial waters or 12 nautical miles out to sea from the baseline of any of their country’s shores.
“The president’s stance is as principled as it is uncompromising: The Philippines as an independent sovereign nation must not be treated as trash by other foreign nations.”
Ms McKenna confirmed that Canada will remove the waste by the end of June.
She said: “The waste must be safely treated to meet Canadian safety and health requirements.”
The Philippine government recalled its ambassador and consul in Canada over the long-running dispute and Ottawa’s failure to comply with its 15 May deadline for the removal.
In 2017, Canadian President Justin Trudeau said the situation had gone on “too long” and called it “unacceptable”. He said legal issues prevented the earlier return of the rubbish.
Canada is also looking at ways to hold the responsible parties to account.
Mr Panelo said Mr Duterte was disappointed about the “inordinate delay of Canada in shipping back its containers of garbage”.
“We are extremely disappointed with Canada’s neither here nor there pronouncement on the matter,” he said.
“Obviously, Canada is not taking this issue nor our country seriously. The Filipino people are gravely insulted about Canada treating this country as a dumpsite.”
Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland said: “I think we have taken a big step with the announcement today and we are moving as quickly as we can, bearing in mind, you know, the need to take due care to get this resolved once and for all.”
It is the latest strain in the relationship between the two nations.
Last year Mr Duterte cancelled a multi million dollar agreement to buy 16 helicopters from Canada after Mr Trudeau’s government decided to review the deal following concerns the Philippine military might use them in counterinsurgency assaults.