This time, he was serious.
President Rodrigo Duterte, known for his tough talk, said he was really ready for war had Canada failed to take back the garbage it had shipped to the Philippines six years ago. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said the President’s threat was just another “figure of speech” to express his “extreme displeasure.”
In a speech in Davao City Thursday night, Duterte said, “Akala nila nagbibiro ako. Sabi ko sa kanila, isauli ko ‘yan ‘pag hindi tayo nagkaintindihan, I will declare war.”
“Akala naman siguro nitong — well of course sa media — braggadocio, hambog ba, hubris. Hindi man nila ako kilala,” he added.
[Translation: They thought I was joking. I told them, I will return that if we don’t reach an agreement, I will declare war. The media thought it was all braggadocio, boasting and hubris. They do not know me.]
Duterte said he had planned to order the Philippine Navy to dump the trash back to Canada, fully aware that this could result in shots fired.
“Kasi kung walang barko, magkarga ng basura, ang navy ang tawagin ko, Philippine Navy, as Filipinos insulted we will… Karga mo ‘yang basurahan, pumunta tayo ng Canada, ihulog mo diyan sa pantalan nila,” he said.
[Translation: Because if there was no ship to load the trash I would have called the Philippine Navy, as Filipinos insulted we will… Load the trash there, let’s go to Canada, dump it there.]
“And then of course, the navy and the police will start to arrest my navy men. Baka magbarilan pa. ‘Di kung magbarilan, o ‘di mag-giyera tayo. Hindi naman ako papayag nang ganun lang,” he added.
[Translation: And then of course, the navy and the police will start to arrest my navy men. There might be an exchange of gunfire. So be it, let’s go to war. I will not allow it to happen just like that.]
As a presidential candidate in 2016, one of Duterte’s most famous campaign promises was that he would ride a jetski to plant a flag in a disputed island in the South China Sea to assert the country’s sovereignty amid encroachment from China. After he became president, he dismissed the vow as hyperbole and nonsense.
Sixty-nine container vans filled with some 2,000 tons of trash finally left the country last May 31 on board a Maersk Bavaria. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, Jr. said Canada paid for the fumigation, loading, and shipping – all estimated to cost around ₱10 million.
But since Canada missed Duterte’s May 15 deadline, the government earlier recalled the Philippine ambassador and consuls in Canada and banned all officials trips to the North American country. These orders have since been lifted when the waste was shipped.
More than 2,500 tons of trash were illegally shipped in batches from 2013 to 2014 by Canadian-based firm Chronic Plastics, Inc. The company declared the trash in 103 container vans as “recyclable plastic scraps,” but authorities found municipal solid wastes which should be immediately disposed and cannot be recycled.
Aside from the 69 trash-filled vans that were returned, 34 were earlier disposed, but environmental group EcoWaste Coalition said only 26 have been accounted for. It is urging the government to disclose where the remaining eight container vans of garbage were dumped.