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Palace rejects Canada's timeline for waste return

Malacañang on Thursday rejected Canada's offer to return "by the end of June" the tons of garbage it had illegally sent to the country years ago and said the Philippines could not wait that long.

President-spokesman Salvador Panelo said he did not expect President Duterte to agree with the gesture of Canada.

"They said [the removal of the trash] lasts until the end of June. The president will not agree. I understand [Finance] Secretary [Carlos] Dominguez that it will be sent back [to Canada] quickly, "Panelo said during a press conference.

"I do not know how [soon]. It could be this week or [the] a week later. Certainly not [by] the end of June. We don't want that, it's too long, "he added.

The palace responded to the statement by Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna that Ottawa would take back the waste by the end of June.

McKenna said the Canadian government had awarded a contract to the French shipping giant Bollore Logistics for the return of 69 containers filled with electronic and household waste, including plastic bottles and bags, newspapers and diapers.

Two containers were seized at the Manila International Container Terminal, while the rest were moved to a secluded garden at Subic Bay International Terminal Corp, according to the Bureau of Customs.

McKenna said the company would start preparing for shipping in the coming days, as the waste must be treated safely to meet Canadian health and safety requirements.

& # 39; Extraordinary delay & # 39;

On Wednesday, Panelo said that Duterte had ordered officials to return the garbage to Canada immediately, even if the Philippines were to bear the costs.

He said the president was "so upset" about Ottawa's "excessive delay" to take the garbage back and ordered that he hire a private transportation company to bring the garbage back to Canadian territory.

"If Canada does not accept [its] waste, we will leave the same within the territorial waters or 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometers) to the sea from the baseline of one of the [its] the coasts of the country, "Panelo said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. last week reminded the Philippine ambassador and consuls in Canada over Ottawa & # 39; s non-compliance with Duterte's May 15 deadline to take back the garbage.

The president also warned that Manila could break diplomatic ties with Canada.

Offer considered late

Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition, said that Canada's newest offer was "far too late for the unwanted waste to leave our country."

The environmental group was at the forefront of the protests and demanded that Canada take back the waste.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that Ottawa worked with Philippine officials to resolve the problem and hoped to find a solution quickly, although he did not provide a timetable.

"This is a situation that is unacceptable and has lasted too long," Trudeau said.

McKenna said the Canadian government would hold responsible parties to account, including the company that exported the waste to the Philippines. She identified the exporter as Chronic Inc., a company based in Whitby, Ontario.

& # 39; As fast as we can & # 39;

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday that she spoke with Locsin last week to repeat "Canada & # 39; s firm commitment" to immediately repatriate the waste.

"I think we've made a big step with the announcement today and we're going as fast as we can, taking into account the need to exercise due care to get this resolved once and for all," Freeland said.

In 2013 and 2014, a total of 103 containers of Canadian waste arrived in batches in the Philippines. The contents of 34 containers were subsequently emptied at a dump in Capas, province of Tarlac.

Panelo also said on Thursday that the palace & # 39; offended & # 39; was after seven containers of shredded municipal waste, imported from Australia, were intercepted by the customs office in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

"We have been offended by that. We will not allow it. We will send them back," Panelo said.

According to customs officials at Mindanao Container Terminal, Holcim was Philippines Inc. the consignee of the shipment. – WITH REPORTS FROM JEROME ANING, TONETTE OREJAS, JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT, TINA G. SANTOS AND AP

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