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Firm still servicing US ships-Payumo.

Byline: Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon

A top official of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) has assailed the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) for allowing a US Navy contractor to continue servicing American vessels here despite an ongoing investigation on the firm's alleged waste dumping in Subic Bay last month.

BCDA Chair Felicito Payumo, whose agency has oversight functions over the SBMA, said the proper response of the SBMA should have been to hold the vessels involved in the incident and suspend the operations of the contractor, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Philippines Inc. Earlier, SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia said their initial investigation showed that Glenn Defense dumped the waste it had collected from US Navy vessels in Subic Bay in an area 17 nautical miles (31.4 km) from land.

But Payumo said "prudence dictates that the SBMA should suspend the operations of this company while the investigation is ongoing. What if they are found guilty? These vessels should not have been allowed to get out of Subic Bay [once the investigation started]." Instead, Payumo said, the SBMA allowed Glenn Defense to service the US Navy vessels USNS John Ericson, USNS Pecos and USNS Charles Drew.

"Considering that the US Navy belied what Glenn Defense claimed when it said that the wastewater was pretreated by the US Navy in the [vessel] Emory Land, considering that [Glenn Defense] admitted it had dumped wastewater into the sea, considering that the Philippine Coast Guard stated that it had not given [Glenn Defense] a permit to dump, and considering that [Glenn Defense] violated the protocol that requires [collection, hauling and transfer or CHT] service contractors to use tank trucks when the ships are docked in piers, SBMA has all the reasons to motu propio suspend the accreditation and operations of [Glenn Defense] as CHT service contractor," he said.

Payumo, in a telephone interview, said government officials should not hide behind technicalities in the law as the SBMA investigates the alleged waste dumping. "Who says raw sewage is not toxic? That's a biological hazard, that can kill marine life and humans too," he said. He also said that the SBMA statement that waste was dumped in the "high seas" was troubling. He said the controversy could have been avoided had the SBMA made it a policy and required contractors of the US Navy to use trucks to haul and treat the waste they collect.

He added: "As for the oily waste, which Glenn Defense cannot dump in the sea, and which has to be hauled out by contractors, that's easy to check. The [SBMA] ecology center must have records of this, as well as the SBMA law enforcement department, because it has to go past the SBMA gates. And the waste treatment plants must also issue a certificate of treatment. So it's really easy to know if Glenn Defense did all that.

On Friday, the SBMA Ecology Center responded to a hazard call from a beach resort owner who said that fish and jellyfish in his area had turned up dead. Nicanor Robles, maintenance supervisor at All Hands Beach Resort, said the dead fish started turning up on Monday.

Sen. Loren Legarda suggested that Glenn Defense be made to clean up Subic Bay. Earlier, she filed a resolution urging the Senate foreign relations committee and the committee on the environment to probe the reported toxic waste dumping.

Sen. Edgardo Angara supported the cleanup call but cautioned against abrogating the Visiting Forces Agreement. "We have to value our relations with the US. We cannot afford to lose the US as an ally," he said.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Nov 19, 2012
Words:600
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