By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Kremlin Montenegro and John Lloyd Hoffman
MANILA, Philippines—(2ND Update) The dumping of toxic materials into the water of Zambales province West of Central Luzon provoked outrage among groups critical of US military presence in the Philippines, including environmental alliances advocating a free toxic and free nuclear Philippines. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced it would lead an investigation, but many sectors just took the secretary statement with a grin of salt and high skepticism.
The lukewarm response to Manila's statement on toxic dumping incident in the former US naval base can be seen in the public outrage of different sectors. In Manila, anti-nuke activists on Friday urged top leaders of Congress to conduct a full-blown inquiry on the alleged dumping of toxic wastes in Subic Bay, a day after the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) announced it is investigating a US Navy contractor blamed for throwing of hazardous wastes near the former American naval base in Olongapo City.
"Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte are legally, politically and morally obliged to undertake a joint or separate inquiry into this wholesale poisoning of coastal and offshore waters off Subic Bay that might spread to adjacent bodies of water encompassing Zambales Bay and Lingayen Gulf," the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a press statement.
Salvador France, Pamalakaya vice chairperson, said the Senate and House leadership should not ignore the issue of "toxic imperialism" in Subic Bay, asserting that a full-blown investigation should be done in aid of legislation, independent and totally free from influencing peddling of the US Embassy in Manila.
"The US Embassy in Manila will not allow their private contractor to be punished by Philippine government. That's for sure. The US government will do anything, everything to absolve the American navy contractor from any kind of obligation of responsibility to the Filipino people. In fact the US embassy in Manila will engage in covert and overt operations to pressure Malalcanang and top defense and foreign officials of the Aquino administration to cover up the toxic mess and free the Washington paid contractor from criminal and civil liabilities .
And this is major challenge facing the probing authority or else they end up anew as puppets and apologists for the American military forces," the Pamalakaya official added. France said it is high time and politically correct for the Senate and the House of Representatives to break their silence on alleged dumping of toxic wastes of US commissioned military contractors and do what is best for national interest and for the environment. "We hope the Senate and the House of Representatives will see the necessity and wisdom of national sovereignty in dealing with this kind of problem.
Abrogate defense pacts
The solution on top of the ongoing probe of the SBMA and the proposed congressional inquiry in aid of legislation will include the abrogation of treaties with the US like the Visiting Forces Agreement and the RP-US Military Defense Pact," he added. SBMA records showed released to local media revealed that wastes dumped by the tanker MT Glenn Guardian were collected from American ships that joined the recently concluded joint military exercises in the country.
The SBMA noted that tanker is one of the vessels owned by Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a Malaysian company operating in several countries which services American ships in the Philippines. On Oct. 15, environmental personnel of SBMA Ecology Center inspected US commissioned tanker, which was then docked at the Naval Supply Depot area due to a “hazard call” from another free port locator. The SBMA spot report showed that the tanker was carrying some 189,500 liters of domestic waste and about 760 liters of bilge water (a combination of water, oil and grease), all of which were hauled from Emory Land, a US Navy ship.
"Imagine the environmental catastrophe these toxic wastes would bring to small fisherfolk depending their livelihood on Zambales inshore and offshore waters. For us that is unthinkable because we are talking here of 189,500 liters of highly intoxicated liquid and 760 liters of toxic-ridden bilge water. This is VFA bred catastrophe in the making," said Pamalakaya.
The fisherfolk group said if not contained the toxic wastes released from MT Glen Guardian would poison other coastal and offshore areas in Zambales, Pangasinan and La Union, including those areas near of within the Scarborough Shoal and other areas in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
"Malacanang is obsessed with its political tit-for-tat against Beijing on West Philippine Sea, but very, very silent on the dumping of wastes by military ships commissioned by Washington for Balikatan exercises under the RP-US joint military exercises agreement. This is double standard and complete expression of puppetry to Washington D.C.," Pamalakaya lamented.
The militant group advised the SBMA to immediately file criminal and other appropriate charges against the US naval contractor and ground further operations of the Glenn Defense Marine Asia. "The SBMA should file charges and make sure US influence peddlers and military authorities will not meddle in the case," said Pamalakaya.