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Philippines’ President Wants to Start a War With Canada Over Trash

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  • The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has said that he will declare war on Canada if it does not take back tons of trash that a Canadian company illegally shipped to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to deal with the trash multiple times over the years, but has not followed through.

Duterte Threatens Trash War

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to declare war on Canada on Tuesday if the country does not take back tons of trash that a Canadian company shipped to the capital city Manila.

“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,” Duterte told officials during a press briefing. “We’ll declare war against them.”

“I will advise Canada that your garbage is on the way. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to,” said the president.

Duterte’s threat is undoubtedly extreme, but this is not a new issue. In fact, the trash that he is referring to was actually shipped to the Philippines years ago.

According to CNN Philippines, between 2013 and 2014, a Canadian company called Chronic Plastics, Inc. shipped a total of 103 containers with 2,450 tons of trash to Manila.

The containers were labeled as carrying plastic scraps for recycling, but inspectors in the Philippines discovered that the contents of the containers were not recyclable at all.

According to the Philippines News Agency, the official news agency of the Philippine government, the containers were found to have “non-recyclable plastics, household wastes and used adult diapers.”

To make matters even more complicated, the Philippine government has said that the containers were shipped illegally because Chronic Plastics, Inc. did not get import clearances before shipping the trash to Manila. This essentially means they just sent the trash there without permission.

Canadian Response

The Canadian Embassy in Manila responded to the threat in a statement, writing, “Canada is strongly committed to collaborating with the Government of the Philippines to resolve this issue.”

The Embassy also said that officials from both countries were “examining the full spectrum of the issues related to the removal of the waste with a view to a timely resolution.”

However, this is not the first time Canada has promised to deal with the trash, and Philippine officials have filed multiple diplomatic protests with Canada over the last few years. During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Manila in 2015, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a “Canadian solution was being developed” to deal with the trash.

However, there was no follow through, which prompted a Philippine court in 2016 to order that the trash be sent back to Canada at the importer’s expense.

The next time Trudeau went to the Philippines for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Canada Summit in 2017, he again made the same promise, reportedly telling Duterte that the Canadian government “is very much engaged in finding a solution.”

Again, he failed to follow through, and two years later, there still has been no action on Canada’s part. Canada has argued that the shipment was a commercial transaction that was not backed by the Canadian government, which seems to indicate that the government does not believe that they are responsible for the repatriation of the trash.

Violation of International Law

On April 17, a Canadian law firm called Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL) said that Canada broke international law by dumping the shipping containers.

CELL argued that Canada violated the Basel Convention, which is a treaty that prevents the shipping of hazardous waste to developing countries without their express consent.

The Basel Convention also prohibits the shipment of waste that is falsely labeled. According to one of the lawyers of CELL, the containers should have been sent back to Canada within 30 days after the Canadian government was made aware that they had been shipped.

Canada has claimed that the convention did not apply at the time the shipments were made because the Philippines did not consider the waste to be hazardous, or at least did not tell the Canadian government they believed it was.

However, this seems to contradict Canadian policy that has since been implemented. In 2016, Canada amended its own regulations around hazardous waste so the situation would not happen again.

Under the new regulations, waste can be sent back to Canada if the country receiving it believes it is hazardous, even if Canada does not.

Is Duterte Serious?

Whether or not the situation will be solved anytime soon remains to be seen. However, the biggest unanswered question is: is Duterte be serious?

In the video of his briefing, he seems casual, and people are laughing. According to the Philippines News Agency, on Wednesday Philippine Senator Aquilino Pimentel, who supported Duterte’s call for Canada to take the trash back, seemed to dismiss the severity of the claim.

“The war declaration, of course, it was an exaggeration,” said Pimentel, “But that means that Canada must seriously act on the waste they have dumped into our country.”

This kind of grandstanding is not uncommon with Duterte, who is known for using threatening rhetoric to get his way.

However, at the same time, he also has a history of violence. International leaders and human rights organizations have criticized Duterte or his so-called “War on Drugs,” which has to lead to the execution of estimated tens of thousands of Filipino’s since he was elected in 2016.

This is also not the first time he has clashed with Trudeau and Canada. Just last year, Duterte ordered the Philippine military to cancel a $233 million deal to buy 16 helicopters from Canada after the Canadian government said they were concerned the helicopters could be used to fight rebels. Duterte has also lashed out against Trudeau for his comments criticizing his “War on Drugs.”

The Global Trash Market

Regardless, this incident between the Philippines and Canada should act as a push for countries that export a lot of waste to find more sustainable solutions to waste disposal. Last year, China introduced a ban on “foreign garbage” as part of a move to upgrade its industries and reduce environmental damage.

As a result, trash has been sent to developing countries. According to BBC, the amount of plastic imported by China dropped 94 percent between 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018. That trash, in turn, was taken in by Malaysia, Turkey, Poland, and Indonesia.

The global waste sector is an enormous market. According to the United Nations, the global waste market, which includes everything from collection and recycling, is estimated to be $410 billion.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Reuters) (Global News)

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Egypt Seizes Ship That Blocked Suez Canal Until Owners Pay Nearly $1 Billion

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  • Egyptian authorities seized the Ever Given, a mega-ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week last month, after a judge ruled Wednesday that the owners must pay $900 million in damages.
  • The ship was seized just as it was deemed fit to return to sea after undergoing repairs in the Great Bitter Lake, which sits in the middle of the Suez Canal.
  • The vessel’s owners said little about the verdict, but insurance companies covering the ship pushed back against the $900 million price tag, saying it’s far too much for any damage the ship actually caused.

Ever Given Still in Egypt

An Egyptian court blocked the mega-ship known as the Ever Given from leaving the country Wednesday morning unless its owner pays nearly $1 billion in compensation for damages it caused after blocking the Suez Canal for nearly a week last month.

The Ever Given’s ordeal started when it slammed into the side of the canal and became lodged, which caused billions of dollars worth of goods to be held up on both sides of the canal while crews worked round the clock to free the vessel. An Egyptian judge found that the Ever Given becoming stuck caused not only physical damage to the canal that needed to be paid for but also “reputational” damage to Egypt and the Suez Canal Authority.

The ship’s Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, will need to pay $900 million to free the ship and the cargo it held, both of which were seized by authorities after the ship was transported to the Great Bitter Lake in the middle of the canal to undergo now-finished repairs. Shoei Kisen Kaisha doesn’t seem to want to fight the judgment in court just yet. It released a short statement after the ruling, saying that lawyers and insurance companies were working on the claims but refused to comment further.

Pushing Back Against The Claim

While Shoei Kisen Kaisha put in a claim with insurers, those insurance companies aren’t keen on just paying the bill. One of the ship’s insurers, UKP&I, challenged the basis of the $900 million claim, writing in a press release, “The [Suez Canal Authority] has not provided a detailed justification for this extraordinarily large claim, which includes a $300 million claim for a ‘salvage bonus’ and a $300 million claim for ‘loss of reputation.’”

“The grounding resulted in no pollution and no reported injuries. The vessel was re-floated after six days and the Suez Canal promptly resumed their commercial operations.”

It went on to add that the $900 million verdict doesn’t even include payments to the crews that worked to free the ship, meaning that the total price tag of the event could likely be far more for Shoei Kisen Kaisha and the multiple insurance companies it works with.

See what others are saying: (Financial Times) (CNN) (The Telegraph)

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Treated Radioactive Water From Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Will Be Released Into Ocean

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  • The Japanese government confirmed Tuesday that it will officially move forward with plans to dump millions of gallons of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
  • The government spent a decade decontaminating the water, only leaving a naturally occurring isotope in it that scientists recognize as safe for people and the environment.
  • Despite the safety claims, protesters took to the streets in Tokyo to show disapproval of the decision. Local business owners, in particular, have expressed fears that more municipalities worldwide could ban Fukushima products, including fish, because of distrust in the water.
  • Meanwhile, officials have insisted that the dump is necessary as the water takes up a massive amount of space, which is needed to store highly radioactive fuel rods from the remaining cores at the now-defunct nuclear facility.

Editor’s Note: The Japanese government has asked Western outlets to adhere to Japanese naming conventions. To that end, Japanese names will be written as Family Name followed by Given Name.

Radioactive or Bad Publicity?

After years of discussions and debate, the Japanese government announced Tuesday that it will dump radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

Government officials consider the move necessary, but it’s facing backlash from local businesses, particularly fisheries, over potential consequences it could have. Many are especially concerned that the decision will create bad press for the region as headlines about it emerge. For instance, a headline from the Guardian on the issue reads, “Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea.”

While the water is contaminated and radioactive, it’s not nearly what the headlines make it out to be. The government has spent the last decade decontaminating it, and now it only contains a trace amount of the isotope tritium. That isotope is common in nature and is already found in trace amounts in groundwater throughout the world. Its radiation is so weak that it can’t pierce human skin, meaning one could only possibly get sick by ingesting more than that has ever been recorded.

According to the government, the decontaminated water at Fukushima will be diluted to 1/7 of the WHO’s acceptable radiation levels for drinking water before being released into the ocean over two years.

Something Had To Eventually Be Done

Over the last decade, Japan has proposed this plan and other similar ones, such as evaporating the water, which the International Atomic Energy Agency said last year met global standards.

The water has been sitting in containers for years, so why is there a push to remove it now? Space and leakage seem to be the primary reasons.

The water containers are slowly being filled by groundwater, and the government expects to run out of space relatively soon. Space is sorely needed, as Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has pointed out in the past that the government wants to use the space to store damaged radioactive fuel rods that still need to be extracted from the plant. Unlike the water, those rods are dangerously radioactive and need proper storage.

Regardless, Suga reportedly recognizes that removing the water is going to end up as a lose-lose situation.

“It is inevitable that there would be reputational damage regardless of how the water will be disposed of, whether into the sea or into the air,” he said at a press conference last week. As expected, the government’s decision did trigger backlash, prompting many demonstrators to take to the streets of Tokyo Tuesday in protest.

To this day, eleven countries and regions still ban many products from the Fukushima prefecture despite massive clean-up efforts that have seen people returning to the area to live.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (KBS World) (NBC News)

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Greta Thunberg To Skip U.N. Climate Change Conference, Citing Vaccine Inequality

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  • Young environmental activist Greta Thunberg will not attend the U.N.’s climate change conference set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland this November.
  • “Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem,” the 18-year-old tweeted Friday, adding, “Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions.”
  • Since rollouts began late last year, 40% of vaccines have been administered in wealthy and Western countries, according to The Washington Post.
  • Scientists have warned that the longer the virus continues to circulate widely, the more chances it will have to change and potentially develop vaccine resistance.

Thunberg Points To Vaccine Inequality

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has said she is skipping the UN’s climate change conference.

The COP26 summit is set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland in November, but 18-year-old Thunberg told BBC she won’t attend because she’s concerned about the impact COVID-19 will have on attendance.

In a Twitter thread Friday, she responded to a headline about her plans to miss the summit.

“Of course I would love to attend…But not unless everyone can take part on the same terms. Right now many countries are vaccinating healthy young people, often at the expense of risk groups and front line workers (mainly from global south, as usual…),” she wrote.

“Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem.”

“Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions,” the teen continued.

Thunberg went on to say that if the summit is delayed, it doesn’t mean urgent action should too.

“We don’t have to wait for conferences nor anyone or anything else to dramatically start reducing our emissions. Solidarity and action can start today,” she added before noting that digital alternatives for the conference would also be insufficient.

“High speed internet connection and access to computers is extremely unequal in the world. In that case we would lack representation from those whose voices need to be heard the most when it comes to the climate crisis,” she wrote.

Data on Global Vaccine Distribution Efforts

According to The Washington Post, nearly 20% of people in the United States are now vaccinated, but many other countries are unlikely to hit that same metric by the end of the year, even with international assistance through the Covax program.

Current projections predict it could be years before developing countries distribute enough doses to come close to herd immunity, which scientists say requires inoculating around 70-80% of a population.

Since rollouts began late last year, enough shots have been distributed to fully vaccinate about 5% of the world’s population, but The Post reported that the vast majority have been administered in wealthy and Western countries.

Around 40% of vaccines have been given in 27 wealthy nations that include only 11% of the world’s population, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

That’s pretty concerning because scientists also warn that the longer the virus continues to circulate widely, the more chances it will have to change and potentially develop vaccine resistance.

Thunberg’s comments are a blow for U.K. organizers, who have already postponed the conference once from last November because of the pandemic. Even now, there has been speculation that it could be delayed again this year.

Thunberg would not play a formal role at the conference but her decision not to attend is a significant symbolic moment.

At COP25, the young climate change activist gave a headline speech and she typically attends major climate events of this nature. On top of that, reports say this summit was slated to be one of the most consequential climate conferences since the 2015 Paris accord.

On the agenda for this year’s conference discussions were country-level plans for cutting carbon emissions, along with progress on the Paris agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (CNBC) (The Washington Post)

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