01/25/2019 15:12 EST | Updated 01/25/2019 15:12 EST

Canadian Garbage Containers Still In Philippines After Several Years

An environmental group says Canada's government is "dragging their feet" on the issue.

EPA via The Canadian Press
A Filipino environmentalist joins a demonstration in front of the Senate building in protest of garbage imported from Canada, in Pasay city, south of Manila on Sept. 9, 2015.

A network of environmental activists in the Philippines is blasting the federal government for failing to retrieve dozens of containers filled with Canadian trash that have been languishing in the Asian country for more than five years.

Watch group EcoWaste Coalition has been calling on the federal government to take back the containers since 2013, when the first of the containers were sent there. The group has also organized protests and online campaigns to pressure former prime minister Stephen Harper and now his successor to do something about the trash.

The containers' contents were reportedly described as recyclable plastics when they first landed in the country, but government inspections revealed that the majority of it was household trash that included adult diapers and electronic waste, EcoWaste noted.

The coalition said 26 out of the the 103 containers were illegally disposed of at a private landfill in the province of Tarlac province, while 77 others full of festering garbage are still at ports in Manila and Subic.

We find Canada's indecisiveness as totally disappointing, immoral, and a brazen violation of the rule of law.EcoWaste Coalition

"Your government can bring this controversy to a close by doing what is just: take back your garbage and send no more trash overseas," the group wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau back in 2016. It received no response.

The coalition also pressed the PM to recall the containers during his visits to the country in 2015 and 2017.

During the latter visit, Trudeau told local media that the containers had landed there as a result of a commercial transaction, and not a government mistake. He also told Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte it was "theoretically possible" to retrieve the containers and that Ottawa had cleared a legislative hurdle that was in the way of resolving the issue.

Pacific Press via Getty Images
Protesters led by the EcoWaste Coalition and Piglas Kababaihan gather outside the Canadian Embassy in Makati City in May 2015.

And yet more than a year later, there appears to still be no movement on the trash file.

A spokesperson for Global Affairs told HuffPost Canada the government is "strongly committed" to resolving the issue. The government is forming a working group of officials from both countries to "examine the full spectrum of issues related to the removal of the waste."

"We are committed to working collaboratively to ensure the material is processed in an environmentally responsible way," Brittany Fletcher told HuffPost.

Previous news reports said an Ontario-based plastics exporter called Chronic Inc. was responsible for some of the containers, but the company's owner denied that in an interview with the Toronto Star in 2014. The government would not say if it could confirm what was in the containers or who is responsible for sending them.

Pacific Press via Getty Images
EcoWaste Coalition, a Philippines-based environmental watch group, has organized protests and online campaigns to pressure the Canadian government to recall dozens of garbage containers languishing in the country.

South Korea also illegally sent some of its garbage to the Philippines late last year, according to Rappler, but unlike Canada, it's already in the process of retrieving it. Around 1,400 tonnes of trash have been sent back, the outlet reported.

"The South Korean government has shown that doing the right thing is not just theoretical if the authorities have the political will to get it done," EcoWaste told HuffPost.

"We find Canada's indecisiveness as totally disappointing, immoral, and a brazen violation of the rule of law. The Korean government acted expeditiously to address the garbage dumping controversy. On the other hand, the Canadian government allowed the problem to fester, dragging their feet to our dismay."

The group said it's calling on Canada to comply with the Basel Convention, an agreement that prohibits developing countries from shipping hazardous waste to developing nations. Canada ratified the agreement in 1992.

With files from The Canadian Press

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