Legarda files resolution to probe waste dumping incident

SENATOR Loren Legarda has joined Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Francis Escudero in calling on the chamber to investigate the supposed dumping of toxic and hazardous wastes in Subic Bay by a Malaysian contractor for the United States Navy.
Senate Resolution 894 directs the Senate committee on foreign relations, which Legarda chairs, and Escudero’s committee on environment and natural resources to make a joint probe into the matter.
Reports said tanker MT Glenn Guardian allegedly discharged 50,000 gallons of domestic waste and 200 gallons of bilge water (a combination of water, oil and grease) some 37 kilometers away from Subic Bay without a discharge permit from the Philippine government.
If true, Legarda said Glenn Defense Marine Asia, which owns the tanker, must be held liable and do clean-up as soon as possible. The incident is now being investigated by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).
“This investigation, in aid of legislation, will be a necessary step for us in order to re-evaluate the implementation of our environmental laws and to ensure that implementation of Philippine treaties and agreements with other countries will continue to serve the paramount objective of protecting the national interest,” Legarda said Monday.
Glenn Marine has since claimed coverage under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US to avoid investigation and possible criminal liability but Malacañang said a third-party corporation cannot be probed under the VFA.
Also, Legarda said there is a need to establish how the VFA Commission ensures, in coordination with Philippine agencies, the enforcement of the VFA provisions guaranteeing respect for Philippine laws in connection with the implementation of the agreement and its related activities.
This is not the first time Glenn Marine has been accused of similar violations. In 2011, Santiago said Glenn Marine was charged for dumping liquid waste a few miles from Manila Bay. The case is still pending with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)
Miriam to seek VFA’s termination anew
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago will once again seek the termination of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) following reports of toxic wastes being dumped into Subic Bay by a US Navy contractor.

“By Wednesday I shall file a resolution to terminate the VFA,” Santiago told reporters in an interview on Monday, adding the VFA, which was signed in February 1998 and ratified by the Philippine Senate in May 1999, has brought the Philippines “nothing but grief.”

“It has brought us very much less military aid and assistance than other countries where there are no basing agreements or there are no foreign base agreements or foreign visiting agreements. They don’t even have VFA,” she said.

Santiago first filed a resolution calling for the junking of the VFA, which is not a mutual security agreement but a support deal to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), in August 2010. It was never passed and remained pending in the committee level.

The VFA governs the conduct of visiting US personnel conducting military exercises in the Philippines.

Palace: No need to junk VFA

Malacañang, meanwhile, opposed Santiago’s call, stressing that the issue on the hazardous wastes being allegedly dumped on Subic Bay is not covered by the provisions on the agreement.

“Our position is that VFA need not be terminated. This (dumping) was done by a third-party contractor,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a press briefing on Monday.

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is currently investigating the Malaysian shipping firm Glenn Defense Marine Philippines, whose vessel MV Glenn Guardian allegedly released waste water that was “beyond the permissible limits” into Subic Bay.

The shipping firm may have violated Republic Act 6969 or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act, which prohibits “the storage, importation, or bringing into Philippine territory, including its maritime economic zones, even in transit, either by means of land, air or sea transportation or otherwise keeping in storage any amount of hazardous and nuclear wastes in any part of the Philippines.”

Miriam’s reso

In Santiago’s August 2010 resolutuion, she said the US does not recognize the VFA as a treaty because its Congress never ratified the agreement. At least two senators, namely Joker Arroyo and Teofisto Guingona III, had supported her call because the country had supposedly not benefited from the agreement.

“[So] what’s the pojnt of giving the US the VFA if that is the case? I don’t understand it,” Santiago said.

Santiago made the call as her fellow senators also called for a review of the VFA after the alleged dumping of hazardous waste into Subic Bay.

“The mere fact that there is an attempt brazen in its shamelessness to dump waters that fall under [the] jurisdiction of [the] Philippine government and then try to evade liability for it is already an indication of the length to which certain people will go just to appease certain foreigners,” Santiago said.

Still liable

Lacierda, meanwhile, said even if the incident is not covered by the VFA, that does not mean that Glenn Defense Marine Philippines could not be held liable under Philippine laws.

“[R]egardless of whether they are subject to VFA or not, they are subject to environmental laws of the Philippines. I am referring to the dumping of the wastes in our waters,” he said.

“The position taken by the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) is that this was not conducted or done by US personnel. This is a question of dumping of wastes, and whether you are a third-party country, you are a cruise ship, you are a local shipping company, you’re a local passenger shipping company, you are obligated to dispose your wastes in accordance with our laws,” he added. — with Patricia Denise Chiu/KBK, GMA News

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