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 movement:
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 standardc 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:
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 rich, 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 judgment for 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.