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Call for termination of US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement.

Manila: The Philippine government should call for the termination of the United States-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to stop the continuation of reported dumping of hazardous waste in local waters in central Luzon, said Senator Miriam Santiago.

In a resolution filed at the Senate, Santiago called for the investigation of Glenn Defense Marine Asia Philippines Inc, local operator of Malaysia's Glenn Defense Marine Asia, whose barge MT Glenn Guardian, dumped 189,000 litres of domestic waste and 760 litres of water, oil and grease in the South China Sea, 37 kilometres from Subic Bay in central Luzon in October.

At the same time, Santiago said her aim is for the abrogation of the US-Philippines VFA, because it will be used time and again by the US and its clients as an excuse for dumping more toxic waste in Philippines seas.

Toxic waste is generated and produced by US warships or military ships while they are in the Philippines, said Santiago, adding this might not be controlled in the future, following the US's plan to transfer its naval forces in the Asia Pacific region.

Proof of environmental degradation in Philippine seas, brought about by VFA-protected action of a US client such as Glenn Defense, is enough evidence for the abrogation of the US-Philippines VFA, argued Santiago.

"The principles of international law governing the protection and conservation of the environment such as those against poisoning the seas and oceans by dumping of hazardous wastes -- cannot be derogated by treaties or [bilateral] agreements between states [such as the VFA]," Santiago earlier told the Inquirer.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has already declared that every state owes the international community the protection and conservation of the environment, said Santiago, who cited the Barcelona Traction Case of 1970 as the basis of the ICJ principle

Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties has stipulated that a derogation of this right (of one nation to protect and conserve the environment of another nation) is not permitted (by mere treaties), said Santiago.

Earlier, Glenn Defense invoked the VFA as an excuse for its waste dumping in the South China Sea.

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has also called for an investigation. Glenn Defense, a civilian contractor of the US Navy, is based within SBMA, and assessment of its action is within SBMA's authority, explained Edilberto Adan, executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFACom).

Manila's defence department also said that Glenn Defense cannot seek cover behind the VFA because the VFA covers only issues concerning US military forces that are undertaking joint war games with Philippine military forces in the Philippines.

In 2006, Filipinos, including senators, called for the abrogation of the VFA when theU S used it to keep accused military personnel under US jurisdiction, following his conviction for rape of a Filipina in SBMA grounds.

The VFA was signed as an executive treaty in the mid-90s. It was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999, during the time of former president Joseph Estrada.

The signing and the ratification of the VFA allowed the resumption of joint US-Philippine war games in the country.

The singing of the VFA became important because in 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected the US-proposed 10-year extension of the now defunct Military Bases Agreement (MBA), the basis of the presence of two largest US war facilities in the country since 1898.

This resulted in the transformation of the former US Naval Base in Olongapo, Zambales, and the former US Clark Air Base in Angeles, Pampanga, by the government into commercial use.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Nov 13, 2012
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