SC told: US access to bases bad for the environment

Rappler.com
Activists ask the high court to temporarily stop US military exercises and port calls until environmental guidelines, duties, and liability schemes are in place

URGENT: Militant groups ask the High Court to stop U.S. military exercises and port calls of U.S. warships. Screenshot of SC petition

MANILA, Philippines – Giving the US more access to Philipine military bases risks more environmental disasters caused by foreign forces, according to groups that are asking the Supreme Court (SC) to temporarily put the government plan on hold.

In an urgent motion filed on Tuesday, July 2, environmental activists and militant groups, led by Palawan Bishop Pedro Arigo, asked the high court to issue Temporary Environmental Protection Orders to stop US military exercises and port calls of US warships in the Philippines.

They said these activities should not be allowed “in the absence of clear environmental guidelines, duties, and liability schemes for breaches of those duties.”

The motion is part of an earlier petition for the Writ of Kalikasan concerning the grounding of the USS Guardian in January this year. The US Navy minesweeper damaged coral on Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage site in Palawan.

At least 2,346 square meters of coral ecosystems was damaged. The US Navy admitted it was a human error.

“The growing rotational presence in the country of these US troops renders our marine protected areas highly vulnerable to destruction and degradation given the influx of military personnel, weaponry and naval and ground vessels. The unlimited access being given to these warships, without any clear environmental guidelines, reveals the fatal problems of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” said Renato Reyes, spokesperson of Bayan, one of the petitioner groups.

Clemente Bautista of the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment urged the SC to expedite the hearing on the petition for the Writ of Kalikasan. 

“US forces should be prevented from continuing with these transgressions and subjecting our environment to more danger and ecological damage,” Bautista said.

The urgent motion also asks the SC to require US officials concerned to “place a deposit to the TRNP (Tubbataha Reef National Park) Trust Fund, defined under Section 17 of Republic Act 10067 (the act that created the TRNP), as a  “reasonable guarantee” toward full reparations in the sum of at least Php 58,375,080 or US$ 1,459,377.00.” – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com

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