Palace quickly opposes senator’s call for VFA abrogation
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday shot down a senator’s suggestion that the Philippines consider terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement over the alleged dumping of toxic wastes in Subic Bay that officials said was neither nuclear nor chemical.
President Benigno Aquino III’s spokesperson, Secretary Edwin Lacierda, said that the VFA would not apply to the present case because the alleged dumping involved a contractor of the US Navy, but not the US Navy itself.
“The DFA has already spoken, and we have already spoken — the alleged dumping, if any, was done not by US Navy personnel; and therefore the provisions of the VFA do not apply in this case,’’ he said in a briefing.
And since this was done by a third-party contractor, “our position is that the VFA need not be terminated,’’ he added.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago suggested that the government consider terminating the VFA, which has been governing the conduct of visiting American forces, following reports of dumping of waste by the barge MT Glenn Guardian in Subic Bay.
She said that US military forces were the sources of the hazardous waste, and that the US’ pivot to Asia would mean more visits by aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and increased presence of US naval forces in the country.
The captain of Glenn Guardian admitted to SBMA inspection team that liquid wastes had been dumped at least 37 kilometers from Subic Bay last month.
The SBMA team found some 189,500 liters of domestic waste and about 760 liters of bilge water (a combination of water, oil and grease) during an Oct. 15 inspection of the vessel. All these were hauled from the US Navy ship Emory Land.
Water samples taken from the vessel — owned by Malaysia’s Glenn Defense Marine Asia — showed that the level of toxicity of the liquid wastes exceeded the norm.
Quoting SBMA Chair and Administrator Roberto Garcia, Lacierda said the wastes were not “nuclear chemical wastes.’’
“He would like to clarify, again—and this is a clarification that he asked me to do—that the toxic wastes do not involve nuclear chemical wastes. That’s contrary to what some quarters have been saying. There are no chemical wastes. We’re talking of organic wastes here,’’ he said.
He confirmed the President met Garcia in Malacañang to talk about other SBMA matters, but not the dumping.
Undersecretary Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, said Sunday that Malacañang would await the outcome of the investigation by the SBMA and the Senate before taking action.
Lacierda said the ships passing through Philippine waters, including MT Glenn Guardian, were all subject to the country’s environmental laws.
“I think it’s the third-party contractor who has the obligation to ensure that their wastes are disposed off in accordance with our anti-pollution laws. And so, (since) they’re a third-party contractor, they’re obligated to do so regardless of whether there’s VFA or not,’’ he said.
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