President George W. Bush
United States of America
White House, Washington D.C.
October 18, 2001
Dear Mr. President,
I am Sittie Moreina S. Mamokhan, a student from the University of the Philippines.
Before anything else, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy to you and the whole American community for the dilemma that you have been encountering this past month since the bombings in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. Like you, I also abhor terrorism especially since it is an act that caused deaths and suffering to innocents.
It is now indeed the time for all of us to unite to finally put a stop to this. But I do believe that you cannot stop a fight by joining it, so to speak. Pursuing a retaliatory attack against Afghanistan will not stop terrorism. Rather, it will claim even more innocent lives and will put more pressure between your country and Afghanistan. But this thought has not stop you, inspite of the negative response that you have received from citizens all over the world, for you have pursued the war nonetheless.
Since entering the war, we have heard from the likes of CNN and BBC of the different preparations of the US government, among these will be the center base for the US military in Asia. Here in the Philippines, for instance, the issue is whether the Philippine government will allow the former US military bases in Subic and Clark to be the re-fueling stations for the US battleships and aircrafts, which will be use to the war. By the time that you have read this letter, you might have already known that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has already given her consent. It is now an issue of such great length that has, in effect, divided the whole country into two sides.
Now that I have said this, let me tell you about the real matter of this letter. I do believe that before the American government should use again their former bases in the Philippines, it should first assume responsibility for cleaning the “mess” that it has left during their 47-year stay in Subic, Zambales and Clark, Pampanga. The “mess” that I’m talking about here will be the toxic waste that the former bases had dumped unceremoniously to the site. An act that has, in effect, not only claimed the lives of many
Filipinos living within and surrounding the area, but also caused permanent environmental damage in it. We all know that you have stayed in the area for more than two score years, that you have use it extensively as a military base; building large airfields in it, ship repair facilities, petroleum tank farms, and other facilities. In addition large tracts of land were separated out for use as firing ranges for live ammunition practice.
Each of these activities generates a substantial amount of hazardous wastes. But my question is why has America refused to take responsibility?
The United States government has not taken the responsibility to at least offer a substantial amount of money for cleaning up the toxic waste, or even attempted to contact the Philippine government regarding this serious matter. Your government, Mr. President, has not even recognized its legal, as well as its moral responsibility in protecting the environment and the people of Subic and Clark and the other contaminated areas surrounding it.
Several studies have been conducted regarding the real extent of this toxic waste problem. Concerned non-government organizations, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources here in the Philippines, the World Health Organization, and even the US General Accounting Office (who, by the way, identified the Philippines as among the most contaminated of all overseas United State bases); all are witnesses to the extent of soil and water contamination. The GAO identified PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) contamination, lead and other hazardous substances buried in the landfill, fuel leaks into soil and groundwater, and other toxic hot spots in the Philippines.
Based from what I have researched, the contamination of the baselands now pose several substantive threats. Among these is the fact that since the US government virtually did not provide the Philippines government of any environmental documentation of the extent of this contamination, (the Philippine government) it has now embarked on a massive redevelopment plan for these areas (Subic and Clark), turning it into residential, tourist and industrial spots exposing even more Filipinos to potentially dangerous levels of contamination. There have also been lots of reports of an alarming increase in stillbirths, miscarriages, and neurological and respiratory ailments.
If these are not enough reason for you and your government to act on this matter of the bases clean up, then I don’t know which is. I have learned that cleaning your former bases in the Philippines will cost your government “Superfund Proportions”, that’s why you are doubtful about acting upon this matter. But this “Superfund proportions”, as you call it, I believe, will not even make for the number of lives lost from the past and those who will be affected in the future, whose only fault is that they lived near the former bases, not knowing of the hazards of committing such an act. Even more is the permanent environmental damage that your former bases had done in the area. By doing so, you have not only harmed the environment, but has also prevented other people from enjoying its benefits today and in the future. You have robbed many people of their lands and their life, and ultimately their right to live a decent life. God Himself has no right to do such a thing, especially if there aren’t any sufficient reasons to do so.
You have assumed responsibility to your other former bases in the different parts of the world; in Germany and Japan for instance. Why not in the Philippines? Japan and Germany are both part of the world-renowned Great 8 (G8). These are very rich countries that can do their own clean up if they want to. If there are places that you should focus on, this should be your bases in developing countries such as in Puerto Rico, Panama, and of course, the Philippines, especially it was already established that our country has the worst case of contamination among your former bases. Our government cannot even provide a large percent of our population of decent jobs, let alone allot money for cleaning up your own waste. By doing so (cleaning up former bases in rich countries while not doing the same to the developing countries), you have shown that you are indeed also not free from the lethal bug of racism. Your country, whose people are known for being freedom loving, and who has the most diverse people and culture in one country.
Mr. President, I do not mean to impose on you and your good office. I do not assume expertise regarding the bases clean up and the extent of its contamination, for after all, I am just a student. But I am a human being, and I sympathize to my fellow Filipino for all their misgivings; that they have to live such unfortunate lives, when something can be done about it. Somebody shall shoulder the responsibility for them, instead of them taking it and losing their life in the process. And it is your government’s moral and legal responsibility indeed to take into action, and finally clear all the toxic waste that your military occupation has left to Subic, Zambales and Clark, Pampanga.
By writing you this letter, I, together with the whole Filipino youth, wish to make you aware of the consequences of evading such responsibility. Jose Rizal, our national hero, once said, “The youth are the hope of the future”. We are the future leaders in this country. But this future seems bleak to me. And I am concerned especially with the youth of Subic and Clark, because for some, there might not even be any future for them. What talents or skills that they could have offered to the country are forever taken from them by your government’s lack of action.
Please don’t do this to us, more so to the youths who now live in you former bases here in the Philippines, not when you can do something about it.
With that, I wish to send you my best regards.
More power and God Bless!!!
Sittie Moreina S. Mamokhan
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 2002