MANILA, Philippines–A senior Catholic bishop has appealed to President Benigno S. Aquino III to obtain Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s agreement to retrieve the 50 container vans of mixed garbage from Canada during his State Visit on May 7 – 9.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Chair of the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), aired the appeal after learning that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has agreed to the local disposal of the illegal waste shipment “for the sake of our diplomatic relations” with Canada, the country’s 21st largest trading partner.

The garbage-filled containers are currently lying at Manila and Subic ports despite the calls made by environmental health and justice groups, labor organizations and even by concerned lawmakers to return the illegal garbage shipment to Canada.

“To request Prime Minister Harper to take back their trash is not only a morally correct and just thing to do, but also diplomatically sensible. President Aquino will not be breaking protocols or jeopardizing our relations with Canada by defending what is good for our people and the environment,” Pabillo said.

“It’s not fair for the garbage of other countries to be disposed of in our poor communities where landfills are located. No community deserves to be a dumping ground for wastes and toxics,” he emphasized.

“I hope that President Aquino will have the courage to raise this matter and get it resolved during his visit to Canada, and I also hope that Prime Minister Harper will respect our people’s right to a healthy environment and order the immediate return of their garbage. The expense is not the issue for Canada, but the goodwill that the country cares for the good of its partner country,” he added.

Pabillo reiterated that protecting the environment from further degradation is a shared responsibility as repeatedly emphasized by the CBCP.

He cited the CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on Climate Change issued in October last year that encouraged every person to conduct an “environmental examination of conscience” to reduce “individual carbon print.”

“In what ways have we been excessive in our own consumption patterns, buying superfluous items, or patronizing goods that are harmful to the environment? Do we carefully observe regulations that are meant to protect nature, such as waste segregation, reducing harmful emissions from vehicles, and the use of biodegradable products?,” the Pastoral Exhortation asked the faithful.
“Having examined ourselves and our relation to the environment, we are then obligated to ensure that our response is not just on the individual, but also on the community level. We are called to explore ways to protect our environment as well as to propagate this environmental awareness. When necessary we should lobby our government for legislation and advocate causes that will help curb environmental degradation caused by the excesses of industry,” the Pastoral Exhortation said.