Philippines plays down Duterte’s Canada ‘war’ threat

Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana addresses a recent meeting with US officials in Washington. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 April 2019

Philippines plays down Duterte’s Canada ‘war’ threat

  • Fury over illegally dumped trash; Canada taken aback by president’s strong words

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to go to war with Canada was just a “figure of speech” the country’s defense minister said, amid increasing anger in the southeast Asian nation over a garbage disposal issue.

Duterte told the Cabinet earlier this week that he had given Canada a deadline to take back tons of garbage that were illegally shipped and dumped in the Philippines in 2013 and 2014.

Previous reports said the waste was wrongly declared as scrap plastic intended for recycling, when it really contained household trash, used adult diapers, and electronic waste.

“I cannot understand why they are making us a dumpsite?” Duterte was reported to have said. “I will not allow that kind of s***. I will declare war against them. We can handle them anyway.”

But the country’s defense minister played down Duterte’s threat. “It's just a figure of speech to dramatize his extreme displeasure,” Delfin Lorenzana told reporters on Wednesday. “If it were me, I would run after the importer of this garbage,” he added.

Canada, for its part, appeared taken aback by Duterte’s displeasure.  

“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,” read a statement from the embassy in Manila. 


“A joint technical working group, consisting of officials from both countries, is examining the full spectrum of issues related to the removal of the waste with a view to a timely resolution.”

Canada amended its regulations on hazardous waste shipments to prevent such events from happening again. 

“We are committed to working collaboratively with the government of the Philippines to ensure the material is processed in an environmentally responsible way.”

But its attempts to appease the Philippines, invoking “common interests” and “mutual commitments,” may not be enough.

“The 70 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries will be put to naught if Canada will not act with dispatch and finality the resolution of this undiplomatic episode to which we take outrage,” said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, warning of a diplomatic fallout.

The presidential palace acknowledged “Canada's quick but vague statement” in response to Duterte’s comments on the waste issue, he added.

“We take note that its response is not appropriate to the strong statement we made against its throwing its garbage to our land,” he said, and emphasized that the Philippines’ stand against being treated as Canada’s waste disposal unit was non-negotiable.

“It cannot dilly dally ... It must retrieve them pronto or we throw them back to its shores. Its offensive act can not be countenanced and any further discussion on the matter is unwelcome and unnecessary. Not only has it not taken any decisive action on this arrant hostile demeanour, it has not likewise expressed regrets thereto. That it (Canada) even considered performing such an outlandish disposal of its garbage to an ally is dangerously disruptive of our bilateral relations.”

Security ramped up as Indonesia court rules on disputed election

Updated 5 min 47 sec ago

Security ramped up as Indonesia court rules on disputed election

  • President Joko Widodo was declared by the election commission winner of April’s presidential race with a comfortable double-digit lead
  • But challenger Prabowo Subianto has refused to concede defeat and has sought to overturn the result, citing systematic fraud and abuse of power

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Constitutional Court will rule on Thursday on an opposition challenge to the official presidential election result after allegations the vote won by President Joko Widodo in the world’s third-biggest democracy was rigged.
Widodo won April’s presidential race with a comfortable double-digit lead, the General Election Commission’s (KPU) official count showed last month.
However, his challenger, retired general Prabowo Subianto, has refused to concede defeat and his legal team has called on the court to overturn the result or disqualify Widodo’s ticket, citing systematic fraud and abuse of power.
The election supervisory agency (Bawaslu) has said there was no evidence of systematic cheating and independent observers have said the poll was free and fair.
At least 47,000 security personnel have been deployed in Jakarta in case of protests by Prabowo supporters and police have blocked roads in the vicinity of the court, which has been hearing the case for two weeks.
The court’s verdict, delivered by a panel of nine judges, is final and no appeal can be lodged.
Some of the worst civil unrest in years broke out in the heart of Jakarta last month after the official election results were announced. Prabowo supporters clashed with security forces and called for Widodo to step down.
At least nine people were killed and 900 injured in two nights of the violence, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets and protesters charging them with rocks, sticks, and firecrackers.
Amnesty International Indonesia said this week police used excessive force and accused officers of torturing several people while trying to contain the riots.
The rights group has called for an independent probe into the deaths, which police say they are conducting with the national commission for human rights.

’Massive tampering’
Authorities have blamed last month’s violence on several groups, saying many of the rioters were paid, and also accused a retired special forces general with links to Prabowo of masterminding a plot to assassinate top state officials during the unrest.
Prabowo and his running mate Sandiaga Uno have urged their supporters to stay off the streets and “watch the verdict at home on television instead,” said Andre Rosiade, a campaign spokesman.
Both sides have said they will accept the court’s ruling.
Prabowo’s legal team sued the KPU and presented in court witnesses and evidence they said showed there was “election tampering in a structural, systematic, and massive manner.”
They claim Prabowo won 52% of the vote — against 44.5% according to official results — and have asked for the court to nullify the official results as they stand, hold a re-vote, or declare Prabowo and Uno the winners.
The legal team has also called on the court to disqualify Widodo’s ticket on the grounds that his running mate, Ma’ruf Amin, failed to resign from an advisory position on the board of a state-controlled bank as required by election law.
The team has also sought to highlight issues with Widodo’s campaign financing, while claiming he used state apparatus as a campaign tool. It has also called on the court to dismiss all KPU commissioners.
Many experts say it will be very difficult to prove the opposition’s claims and two separate legal teams for the KPU and Widodo have said the allegations are baseless.
The vast majority, around 70%, of Indonesians believe the election was honest and fair, an opinion poll by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting showed last week.