SBMA: No toxic waste dumped, but probe continues

By Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Nov 13 2012 02:26 PM | Updated as of Nov 13 2012 10:55 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) insisted there was no toxic waste dumped in the waters of Subic Bay on October 15 as implied in several reports.

Still, the authority will continue to investigate incidents beyond the date in question.

In an interview on ANC, SBMA chairman Roberto Garcia said he did not imply that the waste supposedly disposed by United States contractor Glenn Defense Marine Philippines Inc. was hazardous to human health and environment.

“I said that the waste collected had high level of toxicity,” he said. This can be attributed to the concentrate of the waste, mostly coming from humans, which is likely to be high in toxicity.

Still, this does not mean it could already be termed as toxic waste, Garcia said.

“So this is not toxic, in reference to waste [that is injurious and can cause death]. That was implied in the reports.”

He said the SBMA board met on Monday afternoon to resolve the matter, after the issue of toxic waste dumping snowballed and has even reached the Senate. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago earlier filed a resolution calling for a probe on the incident.

“This is just the October incident. My objective is to ask them to explain…all the waste collected – if these were treated and disposed of properly,” Garcia clarified.

Garcia is referring to the inspection of the ecology center of the SBMA on October 15 at the MT Glenn Guardian, a tanker owned by Glenn Defense.

News reports said 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.

Normal levels

Reading from a statement, Garcia said: “For the information of the public, contrary to what was implied in [reports], there is no evidence that toxic waste has been discharged in the confines of Subic Bay.”

He said the supposed oily waste and sewage discharged by Glenn Defense was treated properly. Still, SBMA has to complete its investigation, but only insofar as several other issues such as, “if it is covered by necessary certificates of treatment.”

He also stressed that the waste in question was even discharged “in high seas 17 nautical miles from the nearest land point.” This means the waste was never dumped in waters under Philippine jurisdiction.

“We are committed to protecting the environment,” Garcia stressed.

The same was echoed by Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) Commission Executive Director Edilberto Adan.

The agency was brought to the center of the controversy after Santiago cited that it should have monitored the incident closely. She even called for the scrapping of the VFA.

Citing the facts disclosed by the SBMA and other relevant agencies that investigated the incident, Adan said Glenn Defense is not covered by the VFA.

“The role of the commission is to monitor the implementation of Philippine laws by visiting forces,” he said. He said the commission was not wanting in its duties, as it asked the parties to submit copies of reports on the incident.

“If there’s violation of Philippine laws, we have to determine if it concerns the US. But it is the contractor and not the US [per se]…It’s also a Philippine-registered company,” Adan added.

He said the VFA Commission joins the SBMA in its serious concern for the environment as well as that of the legislators.

He said, however, this should not redound to the scrapping of the VFA. He said the accord is beneficial to the interests of the Philippines.

“The presence of the US in the region provides stability, assurance that freedom of navigation is assured,” he said.