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Running priest urges Canada to take back toxic waste

Environmental groups join in call to Canadian PM reporter, Manila reporter, Manila

Updated: April 24, 2015 04:47 PM GMT
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Running priest urges Canada to take back toxic waste

Fr Robert Reyes (center) leads environmental groups in a protest run and march on Monday to demand that Canada take back 50 containers of hazardous waste stored at the Port of Manila (Photo by AC Dimatatac)

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A Filipino Catholic priest led a protest run on Monday to urge Canada to take back 50 shipping containers loaded with toxic waste that are sitting at the Port of Manila.

The shipments — which were labeled as recyclable plastics — arrived in batches from Canada in July and August of 2013, according to watchdogs. But it wasn’t until February 2014 that they were discovered to contain hazardous waste materials, after the Philippines’ Bureau of Customs decided to open them due to a foul smell.

"These toxic wastes are the worst form of expressing friendship between our two countries," said Fr Robert Reyes, who is known for his penchant to run for a cause.

"We urge [Canadian] Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper to take immediate action," the priest said. "Take back your illegal waste shipment now.”

Fr Reyes said Harper’s government is an "embarrassment to the civic-minded and environmentally conscious Canadians".

The run was held in Makati City, the country's financial district, where the Canadian embassy is located. Joining the priest at Monday’s event were members of environmental groups BAN Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace.

"It’s been more than a year and yet we are battling the same problem," lawyer Richard Gutierrez, executive director of BAN Toxics, said in a statement yesterday.

He urged the Canadian government to "take back the illegal shipment that they dumped in our country". 

Gutierrez said the shipment, which contains a mixture of household and toxic wastes, should be re-exported in accordance with the Basel Convention, an international treaty that regulates toxic waste shipments. 

The Basel Convention, to which both Canada and the Philippines are signatories, prohibits illegal toxic waste trade and requires the exporting country to take back the illegally seized shipment and to pay the costs for the return. 

Gutierrez said the Philippine government is spending at least US$3,200 a day for the loss of income for storage space and related expenses, which to date has cost about $1.9 million.

The Canadian embassy could not be reached for comment at the time of publishing.

But in a statement last year, Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder said it was the intention of his government to “resolve” the issue.

"We are responsible stewards of the environment in Canada, and we expect our companies and the importing companies to be socially responsible," he said.

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