MANILA, Philippines – A party-list group linked to President Benigno Aquino III on Monday said it is time for the Philippines to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.
Speaking to ANC, Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello said the VFA is a barrier to serving the nation’s interests including the protection and preservation of the environment.
He cited the latest case wherein defense contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia allegedly dumped wastewater from a US Navy ship in Subic Bay.
“The VFA framework does not guarantee respect for our sovereignty. With the pivot to Asia of US President Barack Obama, where they will be assigning 60% of their ships to the Western Pacific, we are going to see the possibility of more and more incidents like this,” he said.
He added: “A contractor of the US Navy has a very strong material relationship with the US Navy… You have a ship engaged in military related activity so it would have to fall in the purview of the [Department of Foreign Affairs]. There’s a framework but our government is hesitant to ask because it fears it might be violating an agreement with the United States. I really think that instead of serving our interests, the VFA has basically become a barrier to serving our interests at this point.”
News reports earlier said the MT Glenn Guardian was found 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.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman Roberto Garcia later clarified that Glenn Defense dumped the waste “in high seas 17 nautical miles from the nearest land point.” This means the waste was never dumped in waters under Philippine jurisdiction.
In the interview, Bello urged the government to let the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or an inter-agency task force to investigate the alleged dumping in Subic Bay.
He also called for protocols for the determination of possible violation on where wastewater is being dumped. He warned that dumping potentially hazardous waste in the country’s exclusive economic zone could harm marine life.