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US Navy investigates Subic waste dumping

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AP FILE PHOTO

The United States Navy has opened an investigation into allegations that its contractor for cleaning its ships docked here has been dumping hazardous waste on Subic Bay.

In an e-mailed statement on Saturday, Cynthia Cook, deputy press attaché of the US Embassy in Manila, said the US Navy had “initiated its own inquiry into allegations of hazardous-waste dumping by Glenn Defense Marine Philippines,” the local operator of the Malaysian-owned Glenn Defense Marine Asia.

Cook said the embassy was aware of the investigation being conducted by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), and that it would “take appropriate action depending on the outcome of those processes.”

The SBMA board of directors is meeting on Monday to discuss the results of the initial investigation of the reported dumping of hazardous waste by Glenn Defense Marine Philippines, SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia said.

In a letter to the SBMA earlier, lawyers for Glenn Defense claimed that the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFACOM) was the only agency authorized to handle the complaints about hazardous-waste dumping in Subic Bay.

Not covered by VFA

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said, however, that Glenn Defense, being merely a US Navy contractor, is not covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States and therefore cannot invoke the accord to avoid investigation.

Agreeing with the DFA, Malacañang said on Saturday that Glenn Defense could not seek protection behind the DFA.

“The VFA applies only to US personnel, but since the alleged dumping was not done by US personnel but by other nationalities, then the VFA does not apply,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in an interview.

Ratified in 1999, the VFA provides the framework for regulating the presence of US military forces and equipment in the Philippines during joint military exercises and port calls of US warships.

Lacierda said the Aquino administration would not bar the SBMA investigation of Glenn Defense.

He said the administration also would not object to a Senate investigation that Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago had proposed.

Santiago said on Friday that she would file a resolution on Monday for a Senate investigation into the alleged dumping of hazardous waste in Subic.

She said the dumping of hazardous waste in Philippine waters by a private logistics handler of the US Navy could be a breach of the VFA.

Suspended from chamber

Also on Saturday, the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce (SBFCC) announced it had suspended the membership of Glenn Defense, a registered locator at Subic Bay Freeport.

Danny Piano, SBFCC president, said the group had been aware about the dumping in Subic waters since October.

Piano said the chamber’s environmental committee had been on the lookout for potential environmental problems around the free port.

Piano recounted: “At around 8 a.m. on Oct. 15, members of the committee spotted a marine [vessel] collecting liquid waste from a US Navy ship at Alava Pier. They became curious [as to] why a [ship], and not a [sewage] truck, would be performing waste collection [for] a naval ship already berthed at a pier.

“Sensing potential hazard, the members reported the situation to the SBMA ecology department for a spot check and to make sure that proper procedures were followed in dumping the waste.”

The vessel, the MT Glenn Guardian, owned by Glenn Defense, had been carrying around 189,500 liters (50,000 gallons) of domestic waste and around 758 liters (200 gallons) of bilge water (a combination of water, oil and grease), which were untreated according to laboratory tests, Piano said.

He said the Philippine Coast Guard had informed the chamber that the vessel had not applied for a permit to dump domestic waste in Subic Bay.

As a result, Piano said, the chamber suspended Glenn Defense on Oct. 25.

“Further decision, whether to lift the suspension or terminate its membership, will be based on the result of the investigation,” he said.

The Department of National Defense said the controversy would not affect the regular port visits of US Navy vessels to the Philippines.

 

Government approval

Santiago said the “overarching principle in the VFA” was that “all activities of the United States armed forces in the Philippines, and the entry and exit of its aircraft, vessels and vehicles into and from Philippine territory” are “subject to prior approval of the Philippine government.”

But Glenn Defense has not secured a permit from the Philippine government to provide husbanding services to US Navy ships at Subic and to dump any kind of waste on Philippine waters.

Santiago said Executive Order No. 199, which created the VFACOM gave the commission no authority to determine liability on the part of any party in connection with the agreement.

“It should be noted also that under [EO 199], the commission is only a monitoring body mandated to submit regular reports to the President,” Santiago said. “It does not exercise quasi-judicial powers,” she added.

That means the VFACOM cannot hear, much less decide, the hazardous waste dumping allegations against Glenn Defense.

But the Senate, which ratified the VFA, can look into breaches of the agreement.

Lovfa waits

There is also the Legislative Oversight Committee on the VFA (Lovfa), although one of the officials of this congressional body, Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, is not keen on looking this early into the controversy involving Glenn Defense.

Biazon said, however, that the Senate could conduct its own inquiry.

“The Senate can do what it has to do,” Biazon said in a phone interview with the Inquirer on Saturday.

“But being the cochair of the Lovfa, I believe it is not yet time for us to look into the matter through an inquiry.”

Biazon said a Lovfa inquiry might be premature because the executive department and other agencies concerned were not yet finished with their investigation.

But Biazon agreed that Glenn Defense is not covered by the VFA.

“They are not covered simply because they are a civilian contractor and their activities have nothing to do with joint exercises,” Biazon said.

The left-leaning group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Saturday urged a speedy investigation into the alleged dumping of hazardous waste on Subic Bay.

“The US government is using private contractors so that it will not have any direct liability should there be problems with host countries. However, these private contractors arrogantly think that they are also insulated from any liability because they believe they are covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes Jr. said.

“In the Subic waste dumping incident, we believe both the US government and its private contractor are liable,” Reyes said.

 

Fire those officials

Reyes also criticized VFACOM officials who reportedly said that a private contractor had no liability under the VFA. He was referring to an Inquirer report that commission officials blocked an Environmental Management Bureau investigation into the waste dumping by Glenn Defense.

“They should be fired,” Reyes said. “They are totally ignorant of the law and cannot be relied upon to defend Philippine sovereignty.”

Bayan also urged a stop to frequent port calls by US warships as well as joint military exercises with the United States.

Reyes said that even with the VFA, the Philippine government had no way of determining if US ships that enter the country’s territory were carrying hazardous waste.

“The Philippine government is barred from inspecting US ships,” Reyes said.

Bayan urged the Aquino administration to “grow a spine and stand up for national interest.” With reports from Michael Lim Ubac, Norman Bordadora, Christian V. Esguerra and Jerome Aning

First posted 7:34 pm | Saturday, November 10th, 2012


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Tags: Environment , Glenn Defense Marine Asia , Glenn Defense Marine Philippines , hazardous waste , Inquiry , SBMA , Subic Bay , Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority , Subic waste dumping , toxic waste , US Navy

  • noypisiTED

    If this contractor invokes the VFA to box out SBMA in the investigation it knows it has violated the latter’s environmental rules and regulations that’s why it seeks succor on an agency which does not know anything about the affairs of SBMA.
    Thus, the US Navy has to severe its ties with this erring contractor to show it won’t tolerate such wrongdoings by its service providers and sensitive to the preservation of its ties with the Philippine gov’t.

    • Mamang Pulis

      correct.

  • malanday

    The conversations of Jose Miguel Garcia and Mamang Pulis is so interesting and intellectually challenging. However, we are going away to the present issue which is the dumping of waste materials in our shore by a Malaysian company doing business with the US Navy. What the hell do they think about our country, a garbage can? If all Filipinos, come together and voice out our condemnation of this barbaric and criminal act by a foreign company to our beloved Philippines, we can regain the respect and dignity of our country. No one in the international community will respect us if our leaders and us, Filipinos, will do nothing to fight for our rights to have a clean environment or compliance to our laws. My suggestion is to write a letter to all our political leaders for them to condemn this barbaric act. Help also in anyway possible to prosecute this criminals.

    • Mamang Pulis

      thank you–I do admit I am intellectually challenged when I’m lucid—–have an inferior IQ of 45–or 40?!?…oh it ‘s 38….yep 38… :)  ……:))

      • malanday

        I do not intend to disrespect you Mamang Pulis or Jose Miguel Garcia with my comment but I do not want the main issue to be taken for granted. In my own personal opinion, that Glenn Defense is just being a greedy and a criminal company and the US Navy has nothing to do with the issue of throwing dangerous waste materials to our environment or to our country. I believe there is a safe way to throw a a dangerous waste materials but it may cost them a lot of money so the cheapest way is just to throw a dangerous waste materials to our shore. Any way, the only one that maybe affected will be Filipinos and no one else and I believe that is how they think.

      • Mamang Pulis

        most of my post are targeted on mr s h i t hauler

    • http://twitter.com/Joe_The_Kano Joe Kano

      “Barbaric and criminal act by a foreign company” ?

      It’s only an allegation at this point, and the allegation is looking flimsier every day.

      Also, the allegation pertains to the Philippine subsidiary of a Malaysian company.

      Take a deep breath and look at the facts.

  • justice_league03

    this is just a hot topic now. it might just disappear after a couple of months. thats what has been happening in the past three years. no follow through. just jumps on one issue after the other thats why there are minimal accomplishments.

  • kayanatwo

    12nov2012

    nobody asked me, but….for almost 50yrs since the u.s naval forces move out of sangley point to subic bay, all types of u.s navy combatant and non-combatant ships from sub-surface to large surface craft moored and tied-up along the side of the alava pier for hotel services.  alava pier has all the hotel services for any sea going vessels would need for her housekeeping services while tied-up along the pier side. alava pier is equip with modern shore to ship connection points that can supply electrical power, steam, compressed air, fresh potable water, and ship to shore raw sewage transfer system that service every types of marine vessels from submarine to an aircraft carrier. 

    the SBMA must have another take on why subic bay now needs and must use service locator to provide ship’s hotel services to u.s navy vessels that made port calls on her former naval base. subic bay has all the modern amenities (shore to ship’s hotel service ) that are found on all modern naval base akin to san diego naval base and u.s naval base at yokosoka, japan.

    something is fully amiss here and it does smell like a rat.



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