On junk and junkets

Two controversies – Malacañang’s rebuke of Ambassador Jose Laurel V who claimed the Japan trip is a “reward” for Cabinet members, and the furor over Canadian trash rotting for years on Philippine soil – have heated up.

Tactless as it seems, it appears that Laurel, the Philippine envoy to Japan, was just being frank when he speculated during a press briefing in Tokyo that Cabinet men were rewarded with the trip because President Duterte “is so elated with the results of the midterm elections.” Laurel added that he learned 200 people comprised the official delegation to Japan.

“Ito’y pabuya sa nakaraang eleksyon. Why do you bring 20 Cabinet members here, pati ang local government on land reform? Wala namang land reform dito, tapos na, nanduon sa atin,” Laurel told media. “Ito’y pabuya, ‘yung parang eh sumama na kayo at ang pakain ay libre.”

Laurel might have intended to be simply honest, straightforward and candid about his opinion, but his remarks turned out to be tactless, gauging from reactions of top officials, some of whom seemed offended.

“Hindi po sila dekorasyon sa summit. Trabaho ‘yan,” Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea stressed. “Puro halos wala sa kampanya ang mga kasamang opisyal. May mga kanya-kanyang trade missions ang mga kasamang gabinete.”

“We have never seen this as pabuya… we are working day and night just to prepare for all these activities,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

“All that I know is this is a working trip and not a pabuya,” stressed Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol who said he’s part of the delegation “because there will be issues related to agriculture, especially tariff on bananas.”

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Laurel’s claim defied logic because President Duterte prohibited Cabinet members from campaigning in the elections. “It is therefore sans logic that they can be rewarded when they were disallowed from contributing to the reason or cause for the grant of reward,” he explained.

How could Laurel be not updated with what transpired in the Philippines and be so out of touch with the reality that the President indeed banned his alter egos from campaigning for administration bets in the last elections? Could senility be catching up with the 75-year-old envoy?

On the issue of the tons of trash from Canada, it’s understandable why President Duterte can be so exasperated and impatient about the stinking garbage. Yes, it’s garbage that stinks, especially the used diapers, and not just junk that could be recycled.

After being made to suffer since 2013 the humiliation of being stuck with containers of supposed recyclable materials that turned out to be rotting household wastes, it seems the Philippines is also being made to suffer from all the gobbledygook or circumlocution that Canadian officials have been dishing out all these years.

All the rhetoric that they’re working “to ensure a swift resolution to this important issue of promptly repatriating waste exported to the Philippines” can be deemed utter nonsense or empty words until the trash are actually shipped back to Canada.

Unless there’s concrete action, phrases like “swift resolution” or “promptly repatriating” are worthless. And to say, after all these years, that Canada is still “examining the full spectrum of issues related to the removal of the waste with a view to a timely resolution” can be so preposterous.

Even the supposed assurance given by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017 turned out to be meaningless. He said then that legal barriers preventing Canada from getting back the trash have been dealt with “so it is now theoretically possible to get it back.” Nothing has happened yet.

Amid widespread belief that Canadian officials are taking Filipinos for fools who can be given the runaround, an exasperated President Duterte is right to utter that he will “set sail to Canada” and dump their garbage there. “Celebrate because your garbage is coming home,” he said. “Eat it if you want to.”

Indeed, the Philippines needs to stand up now against the ultimate insult of being literally trashed by a country that seems to be taking its own sweet time in doing the right thing.

Email: insights.xlr8@yahoo.com