Environmentalists express support to VFA termination

MABALACAT CITY -- The Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan) has welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte's termination of the United States (US)-Republic of the Philippines (RP) Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

"It is a just move towards ending an unjust, disadvantageous, and environmentally destructive military agreement," the group stated.

US military forces and facilities have a long track record of environmental destruction and pollution in the country, according to Kalikasan.

After the expiration of the Bases agreement in 1991, the US military left voluminous toxic wastes and contaminated vast areas in the former military bases in Subic and Clark, it added.

Toxic chemicals such as Aldrins, Dieldrin, Petroleum Hydrocarbons (PCBs), lead, mercury, and other had contaminated the soil and groundwater above safe environmental standards, affecting the health of thousands in nearby communities. This also resulted to the death of more than 200 and sickness of more than 10,250 individuals, the group said.

Kalikasan also said that under the regime of VFA, a US military contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia has dumped 50,000 gallons of untreated domestic waste and 200 gallons of bilge water in Subic waters.

On January 18, 2013, a US Navy ship USS Guardian, grounded in the Unesco World Heritage Site Tubbataha reef in Palawan, destroying an area 2,300 m2. The US government has only paid $1.97 Million, far from the estimated damage amount of $16.8 million to $27 million, it added.

It also said that annual Balikatan exercises and war games, which use live ammunition, heavy bombardments, tanks and ships, leave high ecological footprint and pose a danger to adjacent environment and local communities.

The group urged the Duterte administration to end other unfair agreements with the US, such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, among others.

"We are also cognizant that termination of VFA should not be a precursor towards a full blown China oriented Philippine foreign policy. We challenge President Duterte to apply the same that he used in ending VFA in asserting our sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea and rejecting the debt trap of China," the group said.


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