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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: International | Environment & Forest Defense
Filipinos slams US over toxic dumping; renews call for abrogation of VFA
'Not the trash bin of a superpower': Philippine solons, groups denounce U.S. toxic waste dumping in Subic
Manila, Philippines: Akbayan Party today slammed the United States government for the dumping of toxic waste 20 nautical miles from Subic Bay by the tanker MT Glenn Guardian owned by Glenn Defense Marine Asia Philippines, Inc., a United States Navy contractor which services American ships. According to Akbayan Representative Walden Bello, "the action shows a wanton disregard for Philippine laws and lack of concern for environmental safety."
“We have been reduced to being the trash bin of a superpower. It seems that our environmental laws and safety counts for nothing to the United States government,” according to Bello.
Bello demanded the United States government to apologize for this transgression and swiftly act on the matter. The Akbayan lawmaker said the US government must conduct cleaning operations in the area where the tanker dumped its cargo of hazardous wastes and provide reparations for any damages caused to the environment.
“The US government should take full responsibility for this act. Contracting the disposal of their wastes should not afford them a way to wash their hands of this issue. It is their hazardous waste therefore it is their responsibility,” according to Bello.
Akbayan renews call for abrogation of VFA
Bello also renewed its call for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to prevent future environmental catastrophes such as this. According to Bello, the recent dumping incident showed that the VFA stifled local law enforcement measures to address environmental harm caused by US military contractors.
“The VFA not only undermines our sovereignty but also local authorities’ powers to regulate and penalize such irresponsible actions. In effect the VFA puts such reprehensible actions made by contractors beyond the reach of local enforcement simply because they can claim to be in the service of the US Armed Forces,” according to Bello.
Bello pointed to the statements made by Glenn Defense Marine Asia Philippines, Inc. arguing that the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) did not have proper jurisdiction over the company since their vessels were support vessels of the US Navy and not commercial vessels that could regulated by the SBMA.
Subic Bay ecology under threat
Meanwhile, Akbayan also expressed concern over the environmental effects of the dumping of hazardous waste in the area near Subic Bay which is known for its eco-tourism industry.
“We are very worried over the adverse effects that the hazardous waste might cause to the local environment and the people living around Subic,” according to Mark Figueras, Akbayan-Olongapo and Zambales spokesperson.
“The communities living near and around Subic Bay depend on a healthy environment for their living either through fishing or eco-tourism. So we’re really worried that this dumping of hazardous waste will take a toll on the local economy as well,” Figueras added.
Bello likewise urged the government to conduct a swift investigation of the incident and also called on the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFACOM) to raise the issue with their counterparts in the US government.
"We hope the government will immediately act on this incident and raise this issue with the US government. Similar incidents such as this will only continue if we cannot properly deliberate it with the US government," Bello concluded.
On Oct. 15, SBMA Ecology Center personnel inspected MT Glenn Guardian, then docked at the Naval Supply Depot area here due to a “hazard call” from another free port locator. A copy of the SBMA spot report showed that the tanker was carrying some 189,500 liters of domestic waste and about 760 liters of bilge water (a combination of water, oil and grease), all of which were hauled from Emory Land, a US Navy ship.
On Oct. 16, a team from the Philippine Coast Guard’s marine pollution division, led by PO1 Enrico Viuda, and SBMA Ecology Center personnel boarded Glenn Guardian and another vessel, MT Glenn Enterprise, to take water samples and see whether the liquid waste was safe to be dumped into the sea.
But SBMA sources said Edilberto Acedilla, captain of Glenn Guardian, told the team that the liquid wastes had been dumped at least 37 kilometers (20 nautical miles) from Subic Bay without procuring a permit from the Coast Guard or from the SBMA.