US toxic waste dumped in Subic
Businesses alarmed, prompting probeBy Robert Gonzaga
Inquirer Central Luzon
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is investigating a US Navy contractor for allegedly dumping hazardous wastes on Subic Bay last month.
SBMA records showed that wastes dumped by the tanker MT Glenn Guardian were collected from American ships that joined the recently concluded joint military exercises in the country.
The tanker is one of the vessels owned by Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a Malaysian company operating in several countries which services American ships in the Philippines.
The allegations of waste dumping in Subic Bay have alarmed locators and environmental organizations in the free port.
Charo Simons, spokesperson of Subic Bay Freeport Chamber for Health and Environment Conservation, said the waste dumping was “deeply troubling to all of us who want to protect the environment in and around the Subic Bay area.”
“This company has a lot of explaining to do, and the SBMA has a duty to go after this company’s officials if they have endangered not only the environment but also everybody who lives and works here,” Simons said.
On Oct. 15, SBMA Ecology Center personnel inspected 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.
An SBMA official involved in the investigation said the Coast Guard had told Acedilla that a permit was necessary since the tankers were dumping water in Philippine territory.
The official, who asked not to be named because of lack of authority to speak to the media, said the Coast Guard and the SBMA Ecology Center had not issued permits to Glenn Defense Marine Asia for the dumping.
High toxicity level
Test results of the water samples conducted by Subic Water and Sewerage Co., the firm contracted by the SBMA to test water samples taken from the vessels, showed that the level of toxicity of the liquid wastes exceeded the norm and went beyond levels set by international marine pollution conventions.
SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia said the results “confirmed that [Glenn Defense Marine Asia] did not treat the waste, which it should have.”
“There are treatment plants in Central Luzon, where the wastes should have been brought first before they dumped them,” he said.
Garcia added that although the Glenn Guardian captain claimed that the wastes were dumped in the West Philippine Sea, “they should have treated these first because that contained oily waste.”
Show cause letter
Garcia said the SBMA Ecology Center had issued a “show cause” letter to Glenn Defense Marine Asia, asking the company to explain the waste dumping that was supposedly done without proper permits.
The company, through its lawyers, sent the SBMA a reply on Nov. 6 and said the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement, not the government agency administering this free port, has jurisdiction over it.
Glenn Defense Marine Asia has been servicing vessels in Subic Bay since 2009, according to records. This year alone, 37 US Navy ships were serviced by the company and part of its service is to collect tons of liquid wastes from these ships.
Retired vice admiral
The Malaysian company’s Philippine operation is headed by retired Vice Adm. Mateo Mayuga, chair and chief executive officer of Glenn Defense Marine Asia Philippines Inc. Mayuga is a former flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy.
In July 2005, Mayuga, then inspector general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, headed a panel that investigated the involvement of at least four military generals linked to the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal.
The scandal involved tapped conversations supposedly between then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano on the alleged rigging of the 2004 presidential election results.
US Embassy statement
In a statement sent by e-mail, Cynthia Cook, deputy press attaché of the US Embassy in Manila, said: “We are aware of the allegations against Glenn Defense Marine Philippines, a contractor for the US Navy in the Philippines, and we understand there is an ongoing investigation by the Subic Bay Freeport authorities.”
Cook, however, said the US government would await the results of the investigation before it imposed sanctions, if any. “We will take appropriate action depending on the outcome of the investigation,” she said.