Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solutions and Arc Ecology: Environment, Economy Society & Peace
HIGH NOON FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FOR THE PHILIPPINES?
United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to Hear Arguments for a Military Assessment of Past Pollution Impacts of American Bases in the Philippines
Press Availability: 10am –11am, January 11, 2005 Front Steps, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 7th Street and Mission in San Francisco
For more information: Saul Bloom (Arc Ecology) or Nher Sagum (FACES) at 415-495-1786 415-495-1786 Scott Allen (415) 543-9464 (415) 543-9464
On January 11th the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals will hear a plea for justice from a coalition of thirty-six Filipino nationals and American environmental organizations. The suit on appeal seeks to compel the United States Air Force and Navy to investigate and publicly disclose the extent two former American military facilities in the Philippines have polluted the environment with toxic and hazardous contaminants.
The military’s failure to adequately investigate and report the environmental and hazardous contamination, including unexploded ordnance, has resulted in the deaths of more than 170 people over the last decade. In 2003, the federal court in San Jose, California rejected the coalition’s demand that the U.S. military should assess and disclose the extent of contamination. The lower court ruled on the grounds that the laws on which the petition is based do not apply to former U.S. bases in the Philippines. On January 11, 2005 the Appeals Court will take up the complaint brought by former civilian residents, workers and neighbors of Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base.
“This lawsuit represents a very reasonable approach to addressing the problem of pollution at the former Clark and Subic bases,” said Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, the Filipino American scientist largely responsible for drawing attention to the potential for serious pollution at the facilities. “This lawsuit does not compel the federal government to pay for a cleanup. All we are asking is that the U.S. military let the Filipino people know the degree to which these properties are polluted. Our request is completely consistent with the program the Pentagon is currently conducting in hundreds of base communities across the United States.”
In 2001, residents of Clark and Subic signed petitions requesting the United States Air Force and Navy the agencies conduct full first phase assessments of the bases as provided for under sections of the federal Superfund and military Defense Environmental Program regulations. In 2002, the Air Force rejected the petitions and in 2003 a lower court ruled against the request. The coalition realized the fight would be difficult but remains optimistic.
“By applying the law as we are, we are charting new territory,” said coalition attorney Scott Allen. “We think based upon the brief we provided, that the Appeals Court will rule in our favor.”
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For close to a century, the United States military operated a network of bases in the Philippines, which formed the backbone of American power in Asia. Of these bases, the former Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base were the largest (Clark was just 9 square kilometers smaller than the nation of Singapore).
These bases were industrial, maintenance and training facilities. Similar military facilities within the domestic U.S. are all highly contaminated and the majority are either on, or have ranked sufficiently high to be included on, the National Priorities List of most contaminated facilities – also known as the Superfund list.
Numerous studies from organizations as diverse as the United States General Accounting Office, World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the Philippine Senate have expressed deep concern about the degree to which the former bases in the Philippines are contaminated. Groups, such as Arc Ecology and an independent team of scientists including Dr. Emmanuel and Prof. Paul Bloom of the University of Minnesota, have identified known and suspected contaminated sites at the former bases based on documents belatedly released by the Department of Defense in 1993. Other studies, including one by the Canada-based International Institute of Concern for Public Health, have suggested that the birth defects, leukemia and other cancer deaths, and other health problems especially among former residents of a contaminated site called CABCOM, may be linked to chronic exposure to toxic substances left behind by the U.S. military.
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The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2003