Ferreting out the truth on alleged toxic waste dumping
Loren Legarda (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2012 - 12:00am

Dear Mr. Esposo:

I am writing in connection with your article, entitled “Senate hearings should bring out the truth” which appeared in the “As I Wreck This Chair” column of the Nov. 27, 2012 edition of the Philippine STAR.

There are a couple of issues that you raised in the subject column that merit clarification in the interest of truth and fairness which your column so eloquently called for.

The Senate hearing on Nov. 21, 2012 was conducted, pursuant to Senate Resolutions No. 894, 895, and 896, on the alleged dumping of toxic and hazardous wastes by the ships of Glenn Defense Marine Asia in sea waters.

The media reports that have come out following the Senate hearing of Nov. 21 reflected essentially the information provided by resource persons to the hearing, including those from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). The “Official Statement from the SBMA” parts that you cited in your column are just one among thousands of pages of documents our Committee has received in connection with the on-going investigation. We certainly cannot ferret out the truth merely on the basis of a one-page statement from SBMA.

Records of the hearing will show that it was no less than SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia who confirmed that the wastewater sample test results showed high levels of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD). The report submitted by the SBMA to the Committee also stated, in no uncertain terms, that “based on the evidence made available to the Agency” it has been observed that “samples of sewage collected from the M/T Glenn Guardian by the Agency on 16 October 2012 were found by the Subic Water and Sewerage Inc. to be in excess of the permitted effluent standards as prescribed under DENR Department Administrative Order No. 35, series of 1990. At such levels, the same will be seriously harmful to aquatic life and the marine ecosystem should such be dumped in Philippine waters.” (underscoring and emphasis supplied) This important information was omitted in the “official statement of the SBMA.”

The Senate is in possession of the three-page Sewage Laboratory Report of the Subic Water and Sewerage, Inc. which reflects the physical and chemical analyses of the sewage samples. This served as the basis for the above findings of the SBMA.

Mr. Angel Bagalayos, who credentials you seem to question, was present during the hearing, in his capacity as OIC Manager of the Subic Bay Ecology Center. It was his office that had asked Subic Water and Sewerage, Inc. to conduct the analysis of the sewage samples. Mr. Bagalayos, as head of the Ecology Center, merely reported the results of the laboratory analyses conducted by the technical personnel of the Subic Water and Sewerage Inc. The laboratory tests results and SBMA’s own findings as above-stated, are inputs we cannot dismiss in the on-going investigation.

You also claim in your column that I had declared “Glenn Defense” guilty of environmental violation. The Senate records will show that no less than SBMA Chair Garcia had confirmed that the waste dumping conducted by Glenn Defense Marine Asia was in violation of the Clean Water Act. The Senate records will also show that it was Philippine Coast Guard Vice Commandant Luis Tuazon who claimed that Glenn Defense Marine Asia did not secure the necessary dumping permits, in violation of our laws and regulations, not to mention the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).

These vital pieces of information cannot be dismissed in our on-going investigation. I am in no position to alter the information gathered by the hearing which was open for the public to witness in the spirit of transparency.

You had also mentioned in your column certain “behind-the-scene” schemes that seem to suggest that certain personalities are part of the malicious attempt to discredit “Glenn Defense”. We are aware of that information as that has been volunteered as well to the media by some parties.

While such information is among the many issues we are considering, the fact remains that some 200,000 liters of sewage waste have been dumped in the high seas by Glenn Defense Marine Asia. It is also a fact, by Ret. Vice-Admiral Mateo Mayuga’s own admission, that they did not secure a permit from the Philippine Coast Guard prior to dumping the subject waste into the seas and that they were not aware of the 2006 Philippine Coast Guard Circular that requires a permit from the PCG prior to dumping of waste in the seas.

For a company that has been involved in the collection of millions of sewage waste and oily/bilge water from US naval ships over the past years, the implications of these claimed omissions are serious.

Our responsibility in the on-going investigation is to determine if Philippine laws and regulations, as well as international conventions to which we are a party, have been violated so that we may have basis for determining how we may strengthen our policies.

The Senate hearing was just the start of the investigation. Vital information was acquired during the hearing, but that does not mean our work has ended.

Following the hearing, I asked the agencies concerned to submit to the Committee their final reports covering their investigation. Meetings are being conducted to acquire more information and to validate those that have been given to us. All stakeholders are being consulted in the spirit of fairness. Information collected will be evaluated and on the basis thereof, a final report will be prepared and reported out by the Senate Committees investigating this incident.

I wish to assure you that we will be guided by facts substantiated by official records, in conducting our investigation.

I share with you your interest in ferreting out the truth so that we may all serve the greater interest of protecting our environment.

Thank you and may warm regards.

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