Miriam seeks probe into Subic waste dumping

Posted at 11/09/2012 10:39 PM | Updated as of 11/10/2012 6:26 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago plans to fie a Senate resolution calling for a legislative inquiry on the alleged dumping of hazardous wastes by a a US Navy contractor in Subic Bay.

Santiago, in a press statement, said she will file the resolution Monday.

She quoted news reports saying that the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is investigating Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a Malaysian company, for allegedly dumping hazardous wastes in Subic Bay.

The SBMA Ecology Center reportedly inspected the MT Glenn Guardian, a tanker owned by Glenn Defense, on 15 October 2012.

Edilberto Acedilla, captain of Glenn Guardian, allegedly revealed during the spot inspection that they were carrying around 50,000 gallons of domestic waste and around 200 gallons of bilge water (a combination of water, oil, and grease), all of which were hauled from a US Navy ship.

Acedilla alleged that the water in the tanks had been treated, and that their usual practice was to dump these liquid wastes 20 nautical miles from Subic Bay.

This is not the first time Glenn Marine has been accused of environmental violations. In 2011, Glenn Marine was charged for dumping liquid waste a few miles from Manila Bay, Santiago said. 

The case is still pending with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The lawyers of Glenn Marine alleged that their client's vessels are servicing US Navy ships under the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the issue should be resolved under the Presidential Commission on the VFA (VFACOM) and not the SBMA.

Santiago said that while the act of pollution by dumping hazardous wastes is within the concern of the VFA, it is a breach of obligation under Philippine law against pollution from ships.

She said that it is emphatically a violation of the VFA itself which provides in Article II: "It is the duty of the United States personnel to respect the laws of the Republic of the Philippines… The Government of the United States shall take all measures within its authority to ensure that this is done."

"Under the VFA, Glenn Defense Marine Asia could be characterized as United States personnel for the reason that under Article I (2), it is subsumed as 'civilian personnel' who are 'employed by the United States armed forces,'" Santiago said.

"However, that Glenn Defense is a US personnel is only one of its legal characters. It is a Malaysian corporation with a legal status in Malaysian law engaged in a particular line of business and is hired by entities outside of the US armed forces. It is in this legal status that brings Glenn Defense within the sovereign prerogative of the Philippine government in the enforcement of environmental laws in its jurisdiction," Santiago explained.

Santiago added that since Glenn Defense Marine Asia is a US government contractor, the illegality of its acts of toxic dumping ceases to be an individual act, but a breach of obligation in international law attributed to its principal, the US government.

"It is an internationally wrongful conduct in breach of the duty in international or customary law to protect and preserve the environment, in general; and to prevent pollution from vessels, in particular," Santiago said. "These obligations are now codified in Articles 192 and 211 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Pollution from ships as a customary principle of international law is also codified in the Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships of 1978 (MARPOL)."

"As a treaty, MARPOL is of universal application and enforcement. It must be stressed that the customary norms it embodies are generally accepted principles of international law, which our Constitution proclaims as part of the law of the land," Santiago said.

According to the senator, DENR Administrative Order No. 2001-28, or the implementing rules and regulations on the protection and preservation of the environment during VFA-related activities in the country, provides that military exercises and related activities undertaken under the VFA shall be in accordance with the country's existing environmental laws, such as Republic Act No. 6969.

RA No. 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act, prohibits "the storage, importation, or bringing into Philippines 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."

Hence, the dumping of toxic wastes by Glenn Defense in Subic Bay was clearly illegal, the senator said.

Santiago added that the VFACOM is only a monitoring body mandated to submit regular reports to the President.

She said that under Republic Act No. 7227, also known as the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992, SBMA was authorized to conduct its inspection and investigation of Glenn Marine's ships.

The law mandates SBMA "to adopt and implement measures and standards for environmental pollution control of all areas within its territory, including, but not limited to all bodies of water and to enforce the same."