Philippines' Duterte in war of words with Canada over garbage

President Rodrigo Duterte is demanding that Canada take back scores of garbage containers shipped to the Philippines. PHOTO: REUTERS

PORAC, PHILIPPINES (AFP) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday (April 23) demanded that Canada take back tonnes of rubbish it had illegally shipped to Manila or risk "war", in the latest incident to strain bilateral ties.

The Philippines has urged Canada to take back scores of garbage containers shipped to the country in 2013 and 2014, alleging that they contain toxic waste.

But Ottawa has said it had no authority to compel a private shipper to return the shipment to Canada.

Speaking to officials during a visit north of Manila, an area ravaged by an earthquake on Monday, Mr Duterte said he did not care if his stance on the issue turned the two countries into enemies.

"I want a boat prepared. I'll give a warning to Canada maybe next week that they better pull that thing out, or I will set sail for Canada and dump their garbage back there," he said.

"Let's fight Canada. I will declare war against them," added the President, who frequently uses coarse language and hyperbole in public speeches about opponents.

The garbage is among several festering issues that have soured ties between the two governments.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been among the most vocal critics of the domestic drug war waged by Mr Duterte, who was elected in 2016.

Philippine police say they have killed nearly 5,000 alleged drug users and pushers who fought against arrest in the crackdown, while rights groups say the true toll is at least triple that and may amount to crimes against humanity.

Last year, Mr Duterte angrily cancelled the Philippine military's US$235 million (S$319 million) contract to buy 16 military helicopters from a Canada-based manufacturer after the Trudeau government put the deal under review because of the President's human rights record.

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