This file photo taken on September 9, 2015, shows environmental activists rallying outside the Philippine Senate in Manila to demand that scores of containers filled with household rubbish be shipped back to Canada. Image Credit: AFP

Manila: The Philippines has recalled some of its diplomats from Canada amid Ontario’s slow action on the return of containers-load of trash a Canadian firm shipped to the country nearly 6 years ago.

“At midnight last night, letters for the recall of our ambassador and consuls to Canada went out. They are expected here in a day or so,” Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted on Thursday.

Earlier, a May 15 deadline was set by President Rodrigo Duterte for the return of 69 shipping containers loaded with assorted trash to Canada. These were shipped to the Philippines from 2013 to 2014 by Canada. The hazardous waste shipment contained used bottles, bags, newspapers as well as soiled diapers, among others, and were declared as recyclable materials.

Duterte, who said that Ontario is treating the Philippines as “trash bin”, had earlier threatened to dump the trash on Canada’s shores. The leader had even warned of going to “war” with the North American country if it refuses to take the garbage back.

On April 24, Canada issued a statement that it is working with the Philippines to resolve the issue. It said that it had amended its laws concerning hazardous waste.

“Canada is strongly committed to collaborating with the Government of the Philippines to resolve this issue and is aware of the court decision ordering the importer to ship the material back to Canada,” the statement issued by the Canadian Embassy in Manila said.

But Locsin said the deadline for Canada to take back the trash has already lapsed.

“Canada missed the May 15 deadline. And we shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage is ship bound there,” he said.

Aileen Lucero, national coordinator, of the environmentalist watchdog, the EcoWaste Coalition, said:

“Locsin’s recall of Filipino diplomats in Canada is an unambiguous indicator of our government’s firm resolve to ensure the re-export of the illegal waste shipments to its state of origin consistent with the Basel Convention.”

The Basel Convention is a treaty aimed at reducing the movements of hazardous waste between nations.