Dumped waste in Subic Bay: Toilet or toxic?

By Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Nov 09 2012 08:41 PM | Updated as of Nov 10 2012 09:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman Roberto Garcia clarified on Friday that the probe on alleged waste dumping in Subic Bay does not involve toxic waste, but waste generated by tankers.

“Baka mayroong misconception ang publiko dito. Unang una, hindi siya nuclear or chemical waste. Ang pinapag-usapan natin ‘yung waste na gine-generate ng mga barko. Dalawang klase ‘yan, ‘yung oil o bilge water at ‘yung domestic waste na tinatawag, ‘yung galing sa toilet,” he told ANC’s "Top Story."

Garcia noted that Malaysian company Glenn Defense Marine Asia, the owner of one of the vessels allegedly dumping waste in Subic, has denied violating any environmental laws.

Garcia also stressed that investigations are still ongoing.

“It is just an allegation, there is no proof yet that wastes have been dumped in Subic Bay,” he said.

Glenn Defense Marine Philippines is servicing American ships that recently took part in the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Its lawyers said because of this arrangement, SBMA does not have jurisdiction over the matter.

But the SBMA chief refuted this, saying all ships that enter Subic Bay fall under the SBMA’s jurisdiction.

“With all due respect, any ship that enters Subic Bay is under the jurisdiction of SBMA. It is our responsibly to make sure that environmental laws are complied with. We have rules and regulations as far as that’s concerned. Not only for VFA ships but all ships that enter Subic Bay,” he said.

Domestic waste

Garcia also said that despite tests that showed some levels of toxicity in the waters of Subic Bay, it does not necessarily mean that toxic wastes have been dumped in the area.

“You cannot come to that conclusion. Pollution in the water can be caused by [other tributaries]. We have rivers flowing into the Bay, so you cannot readily assume that,” he said.

Garcia said they have to determine the exact location where domestic waste was dumped, but he admits it is a difficult task.

“Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to verify this because nagdi-disolve ‘yun eh. So we have to know from them precisely where did they dump this,” he said.

Garcia said that based on the Marine Pollution Regulation, ships are allowed to dump treated domestic waste 3 miles off shore, while untreated waste can be dumped 12 miles off shore.

Dumping of oil, meanwhile, is prohibited unless in a case of emergency, said Garcia.

He noted that Glenn Defense Marine has shown proof that oil from its vessels is hauled and dumped on land.

Environmental laws

Environment watchdog Greenpeace, meanwhile, urged SBMA to release the full result of the investigation.

Vince Cinches, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, also said it should be mandatory for all government agencies to probe allegations of toxic waste dumping.

Cinches said regardless of whether the toxic waste was dumped in Subic Bay or not, authorities should probe the matter because it could mean that dumping of hazardous wastes are happening elsewhere.

“I-assume natin na these toxic substances are not coming from one source, it only highlights, even if not in Subic Bay, there are activities na nag-rerelease ng toxic substances. There are existing laws addressing dumping of toxic substances,” he said.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago also said on Friday that she will file a Senate resolution calling for a legislative inquiry on the matter.