No VFA for us, says contractor accused of polluting Subic Bay
MANILA, Philippines - The US Navy contractor accused of dumping toxic waste in Subic Bay will not invoke the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States to avoid prosecution in Philippine courts, the company said on Monday, November 12.
"We are not claiming cover under the VFA. We service only US Navy ships but we are not in any way included in VFA arrangements," Glenn Defense Marine Asia CEO and ex-Navy chief Mateo Mayuga stressed in a press conference.
Mayuga insisted that "we are not part of the VFA and do not claim to be," and that he welcomes any investigation to be undertaken by the Senate, the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR) or the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).
Both the Senate and the SBMA have vowed to investigate claims that the company dumped toxic waste on Subic Bay. Sen Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Sen Loren Legarda and Sen Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel have filed separate resolutions calling for a probe, and the Subic authorities have already started looking into the matter.
Mayuga said that the MT Glenn Guardian waste disposal vessel inspected in Subic Bay was not "dumping toxic waste" but releasing previously treated waste water. "We handle domestic water from ships. This is the waste that comes from toilets and kitchens," he said.
Glenn Defense Marine Asia observes international standards "of releasing pre-treated waste to the ocean," according to him.
Before the waste water is handed over to the company, Mayuga explained, it is pre-treated by the client -- in this case the US Navy -- so "the resulting fluid is (…) rendered inert or harmless and ready to be released at sea."
"Once released at sea at the prescribed distance (12 miles from shore as established by the Marine Pollution Protocol), the fluid is naturally digested by the marine ecosystem."
Mayuga claimed this pre-treated fluid "is actually cleaner than most of the usual untreated sewage water coming from our homes."
The ex-Navy chief, who retired in 2006, once headed a military commission that looked into allegations that key military officers took part in alleged election cheating in the 2004 presidential race. His findings, known as the Mayuga Report, eventually cleared the officers.
Mayuga explained that they did not wait until an SBMA team finished its inspection of the vessel before releasing the water in order to accommodate more ships the MT Glenn Guardian had to service in the area.
The waste disposal vessel had already departed Subic Bay and is now presumably in Palawan, according to the CEO.
Queried about reports claiming that the Glenn Guardian disposed of the waste without permission from the Philippine Coast Guard, Mayuga stressed they did in fact inform them and insisted the disposal operations took place outside Subic Bay, within the 12-mile designated area.
Palace to wait for results
Malacañang plans to wait for the outcome of the investigations before it takes any action.
"We will wait for the results," Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said during a press briefing on Monday, November 12.
Lacierda clarified that SBMA Chairman Bobby Garcia told him their probe has nothing to do with any kind of toxic or nuclear waste.
"There are no chemical wastes. We’re talking of organic wastes here," he said.
Lacierda also underscored that Glenn Defense Marine Asia is not under the VFA: "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."
"Regardless of whether they are subject to VFA or not, they [the company] are subject to environmental laws of the Philippines" as a third-party contractor in accordance with local anti-pollution laws, he explained. - Rappler.com