2001 World Conference Against A &
Corazon Valdez Fabros
Secretary General, Nuclear-Free Philippines
Honored guests and representatives of
governments, members of the Organizing Committee of the World Conference
Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, friends and colleagues in the peace
THE CHILDREN OF CLARK AND SUBIC HAVE THE
RIGHT TO LIVE! "THEY NEVER ASKED TO LIVE IN A TOXIC DUMP."
Last August 18, 2000 a damage suit was
filed in Philippine Courts by the victims and relatives of toxic waste
contamination at communities surrounding the former US bases of Clark and
Subic against the United states government as the principal accused.
This highlights the efforts of non-State actors or NGOs in seeking environmental
justice. The filing of damage suit followed a historic "Mothers'
March for Toxic Waste Victims" in front of the U.S. Embassy in Manila where
a big number of mothers from the province of Pampanga and Olongapo City
participated. Ironically, most of the communities surrounding the
bases were previously considered "pro-US bases strongholds" if not
relatively apolitical communities concerned
only with the day to day economic survival within a base economy during
the 72 years of US military bases in the Philippines. Today, these heavily
contaminated communities have closed ranks with the NGOs which have long
advocated the removal of US military forces in what is now considered a
historic if not landmark health and environmental issue. It is undoubtedly,
an uphill battle where all the odds are stacked against the indigent toxic
victims and their poor families who are confronting the world's most powerful
military from the richest nation on earth - - the United states - - which
has a US$300 Billion annual defense budget!
Health and even Philippine environment
were victims of the political minefield in Philippine-US relations.
New documented evidence - - contrary to earlier perceptions- - that the
US government did not even prepare or much more recognize that there were
potential health and environmental problems at Clark and Subic. The
existence of draft plans dated May 15, 1991 under the title, "action Memorandum
for environmental restoration Policies for Overseas (ERPO) Installations"
and "Environmental Considerations and actions Applicable to Installations
Being Returned to Host Nation" demolishes the official "No Legal Responsibility"
position of the US government. The US
Department of Defense has a program called
ERPO where, "Department of Defense Components will be responsible for the
specific clean-up requirements and for the execution of the actual clean-up
efforts when required". These draft health and environmental plans, which
could have prevented countless deaths by Filipino victims of toxic contamination
in the former bases, evidently were never acted upon, or implemented in
the Philippines. This retaliatory measure of not implementing health and
environmental restoration policies after the closure of the bases has cost
lives and maimed generations of Filipino children and women as well as
other Filipinos residing near the former
bases. This hostile attitude operationalizes
what former US Admiral Eugene Carroll described as "national security taking
absolute priority over all other considerations," that is, over health,
environment and human rights concerns. The proposed US health and
environmental policy, which actually recognized that there were potential
serious health and environmental problems, never went forward and contradicted
subsequent official US positions on the matter. The welfare, health and
safety of the Filipino people thus fell victim to a superpower's geopolitical
considerations and strategy. These documents also show that the US
Department of Defense has the capacity and resources (but did not mobilize
them) thru an existing Environmental Restoration Program to identify
the contamination and eventually clean-up as it has done in the former
bases in the United States and overseas.
During a congressional of the Philippine
House of Representatives, the Assistant secretary for American Affairs,
admitted that before October 1997, no documents nor reports concerning
environmental or health issues/risks at Subic were handed over by the United
States government to the Philippines despite the lapse of five years from
the time of US bases withdrawal.
The US government is applying a double
standard or environmental racism in observing environmental laws.
While the US did not observe environmental protection and safeguards in
developing countries like the Philippines, Panama and Puerto Rico, yet
according to the New York Times editorial of December 25, 1998, the
United States is "removing hazardous waste or paying to do so at bases
in important allied countries such as Germany and Canada".
In 1998 alone, the US government spent $2.13 Billion for clean-up of bases
in the United States. Data on previous clean ups in overseas bases
including existing ones show that the Philippines was never in the consideration
of the US despite the fact that we are
its important Asia-Pacific ally.
During the 1996 International Forum on
US Military Toxics and Bases Clean Up held in Manila, Admiral Eugene Carroll,
Jr. (US Navy retired) who commanded the US Aircraft Carrier Midway that
regularly visited Subic testified: "I can recall, as Commanding Officer
of an aircraft carrier in 1970, being closely monitored in the US ports
to ensure proper control and disposal of waste material. This increased
caution was not evident to me here in Subic Bay in 1971 where ships, our
aircraft and our industrial facilities were spewing polluted materials
in the air, water and soil with no regard for the short term or long term
effects. I began to see then the double standard . . . When one adds
the long term effects of the discharge of untreated sewage, leakage and
escape of PCP from electrical generators, it is beyond doubt that Subic
Bay is contaminated in many ways which threaten the long term health and
safety of local residents. The contamination also constitutes a potential
barrier to investment and development necessary to convert closed facilities
into useful assets for the benefit of
the economy and citizens of the host nations."
The Philippines has neither the financial
or technical capacities to deal with the problem. Bases of similar scope
and size in the US cost $1 Billion a piece for comprehensive investigation
and clean up, which is a price tag the Filipinos cannot afford to consider,
especially with the current economic crisis in the region. The specialized
remediation technology to handle heavy military and industrial wastes has
yet to be developed in the country. For the past years, Philippine
NGOs such as the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition and the People's Task
Force for Bases Clean Up and other solidarity groups in the United States
has appealed to the US to take responsibility for the toxic contamination
but the US refuses to even admit to there being a problem.
As I prepare to leave for Japan last week,
a piece of news came up in one of the national newspapers about "SUBIC
TO HOST STATION TO DETECT NUCLEAR TESTS". Nuclear tests and accidents will
be detected from the Philippines through the three monitoring stations
to be established as part of the global network that will monitor compliance
with the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty (CTBT). I am not sure
as to what the implication of this development would have on the security
and defense interest of the Philippines.
All nuclear weapons test explosions anywhere
in the world is prohibited by the CTBT. A preparatory commission is establishing
the international monitoring system (IMS), a global network consisting
of 321 monitoring stations and 80 radio nuclide stations in 90 countries.
The IMS is the first and most important component of an elaborate system
that would detect nuclear tests anywhere in the world.
The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute
said the Philippines is hosting one of 80 radio nuclide stations and two
auxiliary seismic stations of 170 seismic monitoring stations in the IMS.
The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA),
formerly the biggest US naval facility in Asia, has been requested to provide
the site, power and security for the radio nuclide station. Subic is very
near the South China Sea, and the surrounding areas - - like Japan, China
and Taiwan -- all have nuclear facilities. Other monitoring stations will
be set up in Davao City (Southern Philippines) and the other
to be set up in an undisclosed place.
Two weeks ago, Admiral Dennis Blair, commander-in-chief
of the US Pacific Command, was in the Philippines for the 43rd anniversary
meeting of the RP-US Mutual Defense Board which he co-chairs along with
the Armed forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Villanueva.
The following interesting and equally disturbing information were disclosed
and are now subject of intense study:
1. That the United States military is
not interested in reestablishing their former bases in Subic, Zambales
and Clark in Pampanga but is seeking "FLEXIBLE ARRANGEMENT" to work closely
with the Philippine military so both countries could face future
threats under the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty. In the same vein , Blair
claims that the United States no longer considers Clark and Subic as strategic
areas of operations.
2. The holding of multilateral exercise
in the Asia-Pacific region. This joint military exercise is specifically
designed to counter transnational crimes such as terrorism, drug trafficking,
human smuggling, piracy, kidnapping as well as conducting search and rescue
operations. Among the countries being tapped to participate in the
multilateral exercises are allies of the United States in the region like
Singapore, Thailand, Australia and the Philippines.
3. Blair also expressed hope that the
regional code of conduct meant to pave the way for a peaceful settlement
in the disputed South China Sea territories be finalized and forged soon.
Progressive forces in the Philippines
view the Blair visit as meant to remind the Philippine government and the
Armed Forces of the Philippines on their roles in keeping US hegemony in
the region which intends to solidify US control of the government and its
armed forces. The ongoing armed conflict in Southern Philippines
(Mindanao) and the Basilan hostage crisis is being exploited by the US
to justify an increasing presence in the Philippines to push its agenda
inimical to the interest of the Filipino people.
It is always with a sense of hope and
a source of inspiration to witness the emergence of strong civil society
movements in many parts of the world in varying degrees of militancy, but
always with a strong sense of commitment to achieve their goals through
peaceful and non-violent means. The Philippines is a model of this
phenomenon to which scholars have attributed the people's non-violent uprisings
of EDSA 1 (1986) and recently, EDSA 2 (2001). This process is marked
by the emergence of a wide array of voluntary associations of citizens
which have grown and created networks of their own, that make them key
players as well in the unfolding drama in local and international relations
that we witness in the course of our work. Drawn from various social
classes, representing diverse social movements across nations, personified
by the nongovernment organizations and grassroots people's movements that
has given life and nurtured different struggles andcampaigns.
These are the groups that resist trade
policies that cater to the profit-oriented transnational business at the
expense of the poor and the marginalized communities. These are the
movements that challenge authoritarian regimes. These are the citizens
who organize barricades to stop the plunder of their forests or to prevent
bulldozers from reducing farms and communities into playgrounds of the
the powerful and the foreign intruder.
These are the men and women and children who will put their lives in the
line of fire to stop a foreign power such as the United States from continuously
transforming their lands and seas into virtual war zones and minefield
of toxic and hazardous chemicals making their lands and seas unfit for
human habitation. These are the people who rage at the rape and abuse
of their women and children and demand that justice be rendered.
Activists and peace workers like you and
me will continue to be energized and inspired by all the powerful expressions
of rage, hope for justice, and the promise of a continuing struggle until
victory is attained.
I would like to close with a quote from
Nelson Peery from Black Fire:
"If the Americans had never committed
genocide against the Indians; if they had never incited wars of annihilation
between the native peoples of the land, if there had never been a Trail
of Tears; if America had never organized and commercialized the kidnapping
and sale into slavery of a gentle and defenseless African people; if it
never had developed the most widespread brutal, exploitative system of
slavery the world has ever known; if it had never sundered and torn and
ground Mexico into the dust; if it had never attacked gallant, defenseless
Puerto Rico and never turned that lovely land into a cesspool to compete
with the cesspool it created in Panama; if it had never bled Latin America
of her wealth and had never cast her exhausted people onto the dung heap
of disease and ignorance and starvation; if it had
never pushed Hiroshima and Nagasaki into
the jaws of hell - - if America had never done any of these things - -
history would still create a special bar of judgmentfor what America did
to the Philippines."
Thank you for this honor and privilege
to stand before you today on behalf of the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition
and the People's Task Force for Bases Clean Up.
Bearing Witness to the Environmental and
Public Health Consequences of War. The Toxic Legacy of the US Military
in the Philippines and the Advocacy for Clean UP
Environmental Injustice: Rectifying America's
Poisoned Legacy in the Philippines, Prof. Roland Simbulan, 14 October 2000.
The CIA's Hidden History in the Philippines,
Prof. Roland Simbulan, 18 August 2000
The Daily Tribune, 14 July 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 27 July 2001