2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 9 Dec 2002 21:02:24 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Embargoed until December 3, 2002

Contacts: Aimee Suzara (FACES) Phone 510-601-7422
Jorge Emmanuel (FACES) Phone 510-799-2551
Saul Bloom (Arc Ecology) Phone 415-495-1786

What: Press Conference and Lawsuit against the U.S. Department of
When: Gathering in support of the lawsuit 9:30 am. Press Conference 10
Where: In front of the US Federal District Court House, 280 S. First
Street, San Jose


San Jose California. Today a coalition of Filipino nationals and
American environmental
organizations sued the United States Air Force and Navy to press the
federal government to
identify toxic and hazardous wastes abandoned at former American
military bases in the
Philippines. The suit was filed on behalf of 36 residents from the
communities around the former
U.S. military bases Clark Air Field and Subic Bay Naval Base, where
local residents are
claiming their health is being affected by the impacts of the toxic
pollution left behind by a
century of military activities. Over the last decade dozens of Filipinos
living near the former
military bases have been killed or maimed by contact with unexploded
bombs; more recently
there has been an increase in cancers and other ailments - among
children living on and around
the facilities. The lawsuit seeks to enforce provisions of United States
environmental laws
requiring the federal government to investigate the extent of
contamination resulting from its
activities. This is the first time residents of another nation have sued
the United States to force
the American military to investigate its toxic contamination. .

"This suit is being brought under the citizen suit provision of the
Comprehensive Environmental
Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, better known as the Superfund
law," said Scott
Allen, the pro bono lawyer for the plaintiffs. Allen, with the law firm
of Cox and Moyers, has
brought a number of successful lawsuits against the military including
several cases against the
former Fort Ord, a military Superfund Site in Monterey County,

"In June 2000, the plaintiffs sent a petition to the U.S. Air Force and
Navy for an environmental
assessment of Clark and Subic. The Air Force rejected the petition and
the Navy never
responded. Under Superfund a person may petition the federal agency
responsible for the
pollution to perform a preliminary assessment and the agency has to
complete it unless one has
already been done. The purpose of the suit is to compel the Air Force
and Navy to conduct the
requested assessment," Allen explained.

If successful, this will be the first time the United States will be
compelled to respond to
complaints by foreign nationals about the environmental impacts of its
activities overseas.

Addressing a crowd of supporters, Nher Sagum, a representative of the
community around
Clark, now working as International Program Coordinator of Arc Ecology
stated, "It has been
almost ten years since we first found out about the toxic contamination
and yet there has been
no comprehensive assessment of the extent of the danger. With the health
of so many children
around Clark and Subic at risk, it is about time that a full study is
done so we can at least know
where all the toxic sites are and how the chemicals are spreading in our

Sagum, a civil engineer, was born and raised in Mabalacat, a community
adjacent to the former
Clark Air Base where she and her family still live. "From the limited
data available, we know
that there is toxic contamination especially in the former industrial
areas and dumpsites of the
base. Since groundwater is flowing from the base towards my community of
Mabalacat, we fear
that drinking water wells may become contaminated and that families will
be exposed to toxic
substances, as had happened at CABCOM," Sagum added.

"Residents in CABCOM began complaining of stomach problems, a foul taste
in the water, and
rashes whenever people would use the water for bathing," explained
Christina Leano of the
Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solutions (FACES). Leano,
a Filipino American
student at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, worked for two
years as a church
volunteer for the People's Task Force for Bases Clean-up helping the
families around Clark and
Subic. "Since the families were too poor to afford bottled water, they
had no choice but to drink
the well water and that is how many became ill." Leano co-founded FACES
shortly after
returning to the United States to address what she calls "a grave
environmental injustice" and
support the work of the People's Task Force, FACES' partner organization
in the Philippines.

-- END --




Much like the Love Canal disaster in New York State, the contamination
abandoned by the
American military in the Philippines has begun to have terrible impacts
on the health of people
living near and on the former US military bases. Shortly after the U.S.
military withdrew from
the bases in the Philippines in 1992, reports about toxic contamination
surfaced. Internal
Department of Defense documents released in 1993 revealed a history of
toxic waste dumping,
hazardous spills, and environmentally destructive practices. Further
evidence came from studies
by the World Health Organization, U.S. General Accounting Office, and
U.S. and Philippine
environmental firms.

A health survey by the Canada-based International Institute of Concern
for Public Health in
1998 found that communities closest to toxic sites reported high rates
of reproductive, kidney,
and nervous system disorders. Today, residents living near Clark and
Subic report many
stillbirths, congenital defects, skin diseases, cancers including
childhood leukemia, and
developmental disorders. A Philippine Senate report listed 144 people
who have died of cancer
and other illnesses or who were born with congenital disorders possibly
linked to toxic waste.

What happened at Clark Air Base sparked a major controversy in the
Philippines. After the
eruption of Pinatubo volcano in 1991, the U.S. Air Force closed down
Clark Air Base and the
Philippine government selected the area of Clark Air Base Compound
(CABCOM) inside
Clark as a refugee center. Tousands of families displaced by the
volcano. Shallow wells were
dug to provide drinking water. Unbeknownst to the Philippine government,
CABCOM was a
former motor pool and maintenance center listed in internal Air Force
documents as one of the
possible contaminated sites. Those documents were not given to the
Philippine government until
late in 1993.

Aimee Suzara, another FACES member, lived for two months with the former
residents of
CABCOM and documented through photographs the children with leukemia,
birth defects,
cerebral palsy, and other disorders. Many of her photos were enlarged to
make the signs that
supporters from the Filipino American community displayed at the San
Jose courthouse. "The
US government has ignored the petitions from the community, refusing to
take responsibility for
their toxic mess. Now we have no choice but to file a suit demanding the
basic right to know
about the toxic substances the communities are exposed to," Suzara said.

Research on the suit was undertaken by Scott Alan at the request of Arc
Ecology, a non-profit
group that provides technical assistance to communities in the United
States, the Philippines,
Okinawa, Japan and the United Kingdom on the clean-up and conversion of
military bases.

Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, a chemist, engineer and environmental consultant who
co-authored several
studies on the toxic contamination at Clark and Subic is the Chairperson
of FACES. "If the
U.S. military is forced to conduct environmental assessments," Emmanuel
noted, "the resulting
information will allow us to take the necessary steps to minimize
exposure of the surrounding
communities to toxic chemicals. The assessments will also provide the
data we urgently need to
halt the spread of contamination and develop clean-up strategies."

Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solutions (FACES) is
committed to the
pressuring the US military to take responsibility for the cleanup of
former US military bases in
the Philippines, while spreading awareness in the U.S. and raising funds
for communities
affected by toxic waste.

P.O.Box 2597
El Cerrito, CA 94530

Arc Ecology is a public interest non-profit focused on the
environmental, economic social and
geo-strategic impacts of military policy, providing technical support to
communities domestically
and internationally.

833 Market St, Suite 1107
San Francisco, CA


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