Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, has threatened a war against Canada. At the core of the diplomatic tension is trash.
Over 100 shipping containers had been sent to the Philippines from Canada in 2013 and 2014. The paperwork for the containers stated that they held recyclable plastic. What they actually contained was municipal garbage.
According to customs officials, the containers were full of “household trash” which included “used adult diapers.”
This means that the trash that was sent to the Philippines from Canada is considered hazardous waste, and there are strict international regulations about how and where that type of waste can be shipped.
An environmental law firm in Canada issued a legal opinion that the country broke international law which forbids sending toxic or hazardous waste to developing countries without informed consent.
In 2016, a court in the Philippines ruled that the garbage must go back to Canada. To date, this has not happened.
Canada has admitted to the mix-up and has claimed that it changed the regulations concerning the shipping of hazardous waste.
The two countries have created a working group to examine the issues related to shipping the trash back to Canada. Canada has emphasized its willingness to work to resolve the situation and their commitment to processing the waste in a manner that is environmentally responsible.
Duterte gave his comments about the trash at the end of a press conference concerning the two earthquakes that struck the island this week and caused at least 16 fatalities.
He stated that he does not understand why the Canadians are making the Philippines their “dump site.” He further joked that he doesn’t care what the Canadians do with the garbage when they get it back. “Eat it if you want to,” he said. “Prepare and celebrate because your garbage is coming home.”
Duterte said that he wants the trash gone in a week or he is sending it back, and he is willing to use force if necessary.
Duterte also accused the Canadian government of offering money to the Philippines for education if the Filipino government will accept the waste – something Duterte has clearly stated he is unwilling to do.
Should the situation escalate to war, Duterte might want to soften his stance. While Canada does not have the military strength it used to, it is still much more technologically advanced than the Filipino military.
Canada has around 94,000 troops, 384 aircraft, 2,240 tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery, and 63 ships and boats.
The Philippines, on the other hand, have 305,000 troops with only 171 aircraft (none of which are modern fighter planes), 834 armored vehicles and artillery, and 39 working ships and boats.
So, while the Filipinos hold the edge in manpower, the Canadians have the superior weaponry, including the CF-18 Hornet fighter jet which the Filipino military has no answer for.
Still, getting those troops together to fight would be tricky since neither country has carriers or amphibious assault vessels in their fleets.
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But Canada has one last ace up their sleeve: as a member of NATO, they could call on the entire force of NATO to join them in a war against the Philippines. A NATO force would include the US military, something Duterte certainly would not want to see.