Canada off limits to gov’t personnel

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo. (Facebook image)

Malacañang declared Canada off limits to government personnel through an Executive Order which the Office of the Executive Secretary made public yesterday in a further escalation of the conflict with the North American country over trash.

The order came after the Department of Foreign Affairs recalled Philippine Embassy officials from their posts in Ottawa and President Rodrigo Duterte expressing dismay over the “inordinate delay” of the Canadian government in retrieving the containers of stinking waste dumped in the country several years back.

“We confirm that Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea issued a memorandum dated 20 May 2019 directing all department secretaries and heads of agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations and government financial institutions to refrain from issuing travel authorities for official trips to Canada,” presidential spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said.

The memo likewise ordered all heads of different government agencies “to reduce official interaction with representatives of the Canadian government.”

“We maintain that these directives are consistent with our stance on the diminished diplomatic relations with Canada starting with the recall of our Ambassador and Consul-General in that country in light of Canada’s failure to retrieve its containers of garbage unlawfully shipped to the Philippines,” Panelo said in a statement. An official copy of the circular, however, has yet to be released by the Palace.

Soured ties

The President, last 22 April, has demanded that Canada retrieve more than 2,000 tons of garbage illegally shipped to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014 and gave a deadline of not later than 15 May to retrieve these.

However, due to reported documentation issues, the Canadian government was not able to meet the deadline, prompting Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to pull out the country’s diplomats.

What was already a sour relationship between both countries due to what Mr. Duterte and his officials termed as frequent interference in domestic affairs, further worsened due to the garbage row.

Duterte then ordered the government to tap a private shipping company to bring the cargo back to Canada’s shores and also threatened to sever diplomatic ties with its government due to the garbage row.

The President, according to Panelo, lamented how Canada is “not taking this issue nor our country seriously” and felt insulted that it is “treating this country as a dumpsite.”

Tug-of-war over refuse

Panelo said the government is still intent on shipping the trash back to Canada despite a commitment from Ottawa committing to speed up the retrieval process, which it initially said would start next month but which Mr. Duterte rejected.