Philippines recalls ambassador to Canada over garbage row

An environmental activist wear a mock container vans filled with garbage shipped from Canada as they hold a protest outside the Canadian embassy on May 7, 2015. (AP)
Updated 16 May 2019

Philippines recalls ambassador to Canada over garbage row

  • Philippines says trash was dumped illegally
  • Canada missed deadline to take back waste

MANILA, Philippines: The Philippines on Thursday said it was recalling its ambassador and consuls to Canada over a row about waste.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he ordered the recall after Canada missed a May 15 deadline to retrieve the trash, which the government says was illegally shipped and dumped in the country in 2013 and 2014.

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

The presidential palace previously said it could accept a “reasonable delay” in shipping out the Canadian garbage due to administrative requirements.

“That the government may consider a 2 or 3 week delay does not extend the deadline,” Locsin tweeted, explaining in a further post what had prompted him to issue the recall order. 

“At the Japanese enthronement ceremony, DOF (Department of Finance) informed me that Canada did not show up at a meeting with Customs and that was the trigger.”

A spokesman for the presidential palace, Salvador Panelo, said the recall was intended to put pressure on Canada.

He told media that Canada’s refusal to take back its garbage was “disruptive of our diplomatic relations.” 

“The recall shows that we are very serious in asking them to get back their garbage. Otherwise, we are going to sever our relations with them," Panelo said, adding there was no point in having bilateral relations if there was no sincerity on Canada’s part.

“What the Canadian authorities are saying is they are doing their best to bring back the garbage, but I can’t even understand because they can do that, if I were the prime minister (Justin Trudeau) that's easy to do," Panelo said.

“The president’s position is very clear. You should remove that, otherwise our relations are over.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs said there were 837,130 people in Canada of Filipino ethnic origin as of 2016.

Panelo said the garbage row would not affect Filipinos in Canada. “Whatever the consequence, this government will be protective of the interests of our countrymen in any part of the world.”
 


Pakistan shuts Taftan border after coronavirus kills six in Iran

Updated 25 min 13 sec ago

Pakistan shuts Taftan border after coronavirus kills six in Iran

  • Flights to and from Iran unaffected despite deaths
  • Health emergency declared in border districts 

KARACHI: Pakistan has sealed its Taftan border and stopped pilgrims from traveling via the crossing to Iran after six coronavirus deaths were reported in the neighboring country, officials told Arab News on Sunday.
Afghanistan has also suspended travel to the neighboring country as fears across the region continued to grow over a jump in new coronavirus infections.
There are several shrines in Iran which are frequented by a large number of Shiites from Pakistan. Hundreds of people access the Taftan border crossing between the countries on a daily basis.
Pakistan has stopped all movement from crossing points, launched screening procedures and introduced additional patrols along the border “until the situation is under control,” Mir Zia Ullah Langove, home minister of southwestern Balochistan province, said.
“We are trying to take every possible precaution,” he told Arab News, adding that these were efforts being taken by the provincial government, with assurance from Prime Minister Imran Khan that the federal government would also be extending its help.
The move to seal the border follows Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan’s decision to declare a health emergency in all provincial districts bordering Iran on Saturday. But reports of the coronavirus deaths have had no impact on flights to and from Iran.
“The staff of the health ministry is already present at the airports and a passenger is allowed entry only after clearance of health declaration,” Abdul Sattar Khokhar, Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan spokesman, told Arab News as he dismissed reports of a temporary halt on flights to Iran.
“There is no reality in reports that flight operations to Iran have been stopped. We had neither stopped flight operations to and from China and nor will it be stopped to any other country.”
Imran Zarkon, who is chief of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, said 1,000 masks had been distributed in border areas and a temporary hospital tent with 100-beds had been set up to deal with an emergency as part of preventive efforts.
“Qom is the most affected area of Iran where the pilgrims go, so if there is any possibility of virus coming to Pakistan it will be through Taftan and authorities here are on high alert,” he told Arab News.
But these steps have failed to console the people of Balochistan, with some expressing concern about illegal movement along the porous border.
“Iran shares over #1000 KM long porous border with #Balochistan #Pakistan, #coronaravirus deaths are alarming news for the region,” Sanallah Baloch, a Balochistan lawmaker, tweeted on Saturday. “Daily 100s of people cross these borders without formal procedures, region is poverty-stricken with no medical facility.”
In a statement released Sunday, Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said he had discussed the matter with Iranian officials to safeguard Pakistani nationals visiting the country.
Qadri also spoke to Dr. Zafar Mirza, state minister for health, on the deployment of medical teams to Taftan town along the border.
Iranian health authorities said 28 people were being treated for the virus in at least four different cities, including Tehran.
Both Afghanistan and Pakistan share long, porous borders with Iran that are often used by smugglers and human traffickers, while millions of Afghan refugees currently live in the Islamic Republic — raising fears that the virus could easily spread over the border.
“To prevent the spread of the novel #coronavirus and protect the public, Afghanistan suspends all passenger movement (air and ground) to and from Iran,” the office of the National Security Council of Afghanistan said in a statement posted on Twitter.
A provincial official in Pakistan and the country’s Frontier Corps also confirmed that the country had sealed the land border with Iran.
Earlier Sunday, Iran reported eight deaths from the novel coronavirus, the highest toll of any country outside China, as the supreme leader accused foreign media of trying to use the outbreak to sabotage a general election.
The latest three deaths Iran reported on Sunday were among 15 new confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus, bringing the overall number of infections to 43 and fatalities to eight — the highest death toll outside of China, the epicenter of the epidemic.
Four new infections surfaced in the capital Tehran, seven in the holy city of Qom, two in Gilan and one each in Markazi and Tonekabon, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said.
Authorities have ordered as a “preventive measure” the closure of schools, universities and other educational centers in 14 provinces across Iran from Sunday.
Desperate and jobless Afghans have crossed the porous border with Iran for years in search of work to support their struggling families back home.
But hundreds of thousands of Afghans have returned home in recent years as US sanctions have battered the Iranian economy.
(With AFP)