Senate to probe Subic 'toxic waste' dumping
MANILA, Philippines - Senators are seeking an investigation into reports that a US Navy contractor dumped hazardous waste on Subic Bay last month.
On Monday, Sen Miriam Defensor-Santiago will file a resolution to conduct an inquiry into reports that Glenn Defense Marines Asia, a Malaysian company which services American ships in the Philippines, dumped liquid waste collected from joint military exercises in October.
The resolution cited media reports that said Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) officials found 189,500 liters of domestic waste and 760 liters of bilge water in the company's tanker, MT Glenn Guardian, during an inspection on October 15.
When officials returned to take samples the next day, the cargo had been dumped into the sea without the necessary permits, according to the same reports.
The captain of the ship, Edilberto Acedilla, reportedly told the officials that the water in the tanks had been treated, but a test conducted by SBMA officials showed that the toxicity of the liquid waste that was left in the ship exceeded levels set by international marine pollution conventions.
Sen Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, concurred with Santiago's resolution, warning that the alleged incident could spell an environmental disaster.
“If it's proven that Glenn Defense Marine Asia had indeed dumped hazardous wastes on Subic Bay, they should immediately be made to dispose of the wastes properly as mandated by our environmental laws and international ecological standards and pay for all damages,” he said.
Santiago also wants to look into other aspects of Glenn Defense Marines Asia's practice in the Philippines. Specifically, the senator wants the following verified:
- that the dumping of toxic liquid waste 20 nautical miles off Subic Bay has been the "usual practice" of Glenn Marines Asia;
- that the company's Certificate of Registration as a Freeport Registered Company is Subic Bay has no provisions for waste dumping;
- that MT Glenn Guardian, and another vessel, MT Glenn Enterprise has expired permits; and
- that the company never applied for a permit to dump toxic wastes into the open sea.
The company also reportedly has a pending case before the Department of Environment and Natural Resources over the illegal dumping of liquid waste a few miles from Manila Bay, according to the resolution.
SBMA is already in the process of conducting its own investigation.
But in a letter addressed to the SBMA, the navy contractor, through its lawyers, said that the port authority has no jurisdiction over the company as it is covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement.
They argued that since the vessels are “not commercial” and “operates for the benefit of the US armed forces,” the case should be handled by the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement or VFACOM.
Santiago noted that under Executive Order No. 199 creating the VFACOM, the commission is only a "monitoring body" and does not have "quasi-judicial powers" that could address such issues.
Escudero also wants the Department of Foreign Affairs to send representatives to the Senate probe.
“Our laws are clear on environmental protection, particularly Republic Act 9275 or The Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 if indeed hazardous wastes were dumped on Subic Bay,” he said.
Regardless of the issue on jurisdiction, Escudero said it is imperative to conduct an investigation to prevent larger environmental repercussions.
“The main point that we need to determine at this point is whether hazardous wastes were dumped on Philippine waters and if so, how do we proceed to clean up, hold the contractor accountable, and make sure that such an incident does not take place again in the future,” he said. - Rappler.com