SBMA to decide fate of US Navy contractorBy Robert Gonzaga
Inquirer Central Luzon
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Senate finding that Glenn Defense Marine Philippines Inc. violated Philippine environmental laws by dumping toxic waste into Subic Bay could put the US Navy contractor in deeper trouble with the authorities here.
The board of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is meeting Friday to decide the fate of Glenn Defense, the Philippine arm of a Singapore-based company that operates in 27 countries, providing marine husbanding services.
In a joint hearing on Wednesday, the Senate committees on foreign relations and on environment and natural resources took Glenn Defense officials for the company’s disposal of waste from a US Navy vessel in Philippine waters without permission from the Philippine government.
The Senate investigation stemmed from a report in the Inquirer that Subic authorities investigated Glenn Defense for dumping into Philippine waters on Oct. 15 ship waste that contained particulates beyond permissible limits.
That meant the waste dumped by Glenn Defense’s tanker, the MT Glenn Guardian, into waters 37 kilometers off Subic was hazardous.
Retired Rear Admiral Mateo Mayuga, CEO of Glenn Defense, claimed that the US Navy pretreated ship waste and that the waste was dumped into waters beyond Philippine territory.
But the US Navy, which is also investigating the waste dumping, said the waste was not pretreated. It said it had no treatment equipment aboard its ships.
Mayuga also claimed his company had a permit to dispose of ship waste in Philippine waters but the Philippine Coast Guard, the agency in charge of implementing environmental laws at sea, said it had not received any application from Glenn Defense for a permit to dump ship waste into Philippine waters.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chairperson of the foreign relations committee, said it was clear from the hearing’s findings that Glenn Defense violated Philippine laws on proper waste disposal at sea.
Legarda said it was up to the SBMA to determine whether Glenn Defense should undertake a cleanup and pay for damages caused by its operations in Subic.
She said her committee would submit a report on the investigation by the end of November. The report would “pinpoint accountabilities and, if warranted, recommend penalties,” she said.
“Somebody should be [held] answerable for this,” Legarda said.
SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia said in a text message that the SBMA board meeting would take up the findings of the Senate investigation.
The SBMA had investigated Glenn Defense for the waste dumping in October. It collected and examined samples from Subic Bay and the vessels that the US contractor used to remove waste from the US Navy ships.
Former Environment Undersecretary Gregorio Magdaraog, president of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber for Health and Environment Conservation, thanked the senators who, he said, “acknowledged the necessity of responding quickly to this concern that threatens the health of a whole community and the environment.”
But Magdaraog said the Senate should also deal with other issues that affect Subic.
“We urge the lawmakers to continue helping us by declaring a total ban on all environmentally critical projects in Subic Bay, like the 600-megawatt coal-fired powerplant [being developed by a consortium with government approval],” he said.
“The current state of health of the bay is in danger and needs to be revived back to the robust life it has known—a rich source of marine resources to the fishing community and beaches [that] generations of Filipinos have enjoyed,” he added.
“The bay has no more carrying capacity to accommodate more toxicity.”
Danny Piano, chairman of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce, asked the Senate to amend the country’s laws allowing waste dumping into the seas, and said the business community would support the drive against further dumping of untreated waste within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
Trucks, not tankers
In an earlier interview, Garcia said the SBMA had required Glenn Defense to use trucks to remove ship waste because “we don’t have the resources to follow the ships to the areas in the ocean where they dispose of waste.”
“As of now, [Glenn Defense] is the only [outfit that] hauls [waste] by sea. We’ve stopped that. We’re coordinating with the [Philippine] Coast Guard because it will be the one imposing the penalties since the alleged infractions took place in the high seas,” he said.
Earlier, Felicito Payumo, chairman of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, which has oversight functions over the SBMA, said: “Prudence dictates that the SBMA should suspend the operations of this company (Glenn Defense) while the investigation is [going on]. What if they are found guilty? These vessels should not have been allowed to get out of Subic Bay [once the investigation started].”