Apr 072013


July 3, 2002



Today is the 2nd death anniversary of Rogelio Palo, 7, the Amerasian boy who died of leukemia in Olongapo City on the eve of Fil-Am Friendship Day 2000. Rogel, as we call him, was denied recognition by his biological father, a US serviceman in Subic Naval Base just before he left for home upon the withdrawal of the US fleets from RP territory on November 22, 1992. His mother could not stand the humiliation. During pregnancy, she lived in a house along Sta. Rita river, where water flowed from former base dumpsites upstream. After Rogel’s birth, his mother gave him up to the warm shelters of childless Rudy and Rose Palo who loved Rogel like he was their own. 

When Rogel was three, tell tale signs of leukemia started to manifest and the rest is painful memory to Rose and Rudy.

Last week, a retired former base worker Alfonso Napalan, 71, died of asbestosis in Olongapo City. He is among the thousands of base workers who served the US government in the Ship Repair Facility in Subic for years only to realize that their benefits derived from the service were way below the standards that their white co-workers enjoy. Worst of all, thousands others are suffering from the same ailment awaiting medical assistance from the US government knowing that they once served the USA devotedly without being informed that asbestos was hazardous to their health.  

Death continues to stalk the sleepy resettlement villages in Pampanga. Honorio Lopez, 40, died of multiple cancer in Madapdap Resettlement Village, Mabalacat, Pampanga. He was survived by 9 children and his wife Rebecca who could hardly believe when the doctors at PGH explained to her that “ang lason sa kanyang katawan ay kumalat na at sinira ang kanyang internal organs”. Fluid toxins flowed from lesions all over his body. Now, Rebecca has to carry the burden that Honorio left behind.  

People’s Task Force for Bases Cleanup reveal that every week, death adds up to the list of casualties in the communities in and around the former US Military Bases. “We never know who’s next”, said O’lola Ann Olib, Executive Director of PTFBC. Widows and orphans have continued to add to the list of the PTFBC rooster of members.  

Today the children ask: “Kaibigan nga ba natin ang bansang Amerika? Di ba ang tunay na kaibigan ay may pag lingap at pang uunawa sa kapwa?” Mothers and widows ask: “Hanggang kailan ba namin ito tatamasain?” They have become paranoid whenever they hear of war and war-like activities coming, because to them, it is an indication that toxic chemicals are also coming. They have likewise become tired of appealing to the GMA administration on their opposition to militarization and war because she has become dumb, deaf, and blind to their plight.  

In July 2000, the victims filed a damage suit against RP and US governments to press for cleanup and subsequent compensation for the irreparable damage to their health and the environment. Among hazardous substances found in and around the bases are Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) such as: DDT, PCBs, hexachlorobenzene, chlordane, dieldrin, aldrin and others including lead, mecury, benzene, arsenic, cadmium & chromium. Exposure to all these chemicals pose high risk to public health in view of carcenogenic characteristics and their potential to destroy the human immune system. 

On May 23, 2001, the Philippines signed the Stockholm Convention to Eliminate Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) from its sources and the environment. Until now, we have not even started ratification process of the Treaty yet. The treaty clearly reiterates that slight or severe exposure to POPs surely endangers the environment and human health, hence, elimination is the solution. RP and US have both signified full commitment to the POPs Treaty. But is our commitment limited to areas outside the former US Military Bases only?  

Endless questions needing definite answers. Meantime still, we continue to celebrate the Filipino-American Friendship Day in our own sulky way.


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 2012




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