POSTSCRIPT / November 18, 2012 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Scrapping of VFA: Miriam’s long shot

JOINT RESO: A joint congressional resolution is set to be filed tomorrow calling for the termination of the 14-year-old Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.

This fresh attempt to scrap the VFA, signed by the Executive department on Feb. 10, 1998, and concurred in by the Philippine Senate (but not by the US Senate), is expected to fail in view of rising regional security concerns.

No reason is needed for termination as either party can decide at any time to end the contract 180 days after written notice.

This is almost like returning merchandize in a department store in the US. The customer can simply say he just does not want or need the item without having to explain.

But Sen. Miriam Santiago, who is filing the Senate version of the resolution, is citing as reason the dumping into Subic Bay of toxic wastes from visiting American naval ships. Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello is filing the House version of the resolution.

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VIOLATION CITED: If passed by the Congress and signed by President Noynoy Aquino, the resolution will instruct the Department of Foreign Affairs to serve the termination notice.

Santiago, styled as the international law expert in the Senate, said in a speech prepared for the convention yesterday of the Philippine Academy of Medical Specialists at the Diamond Hotel a few hundred meters from the US embassy on Roxas Blvd.:

“I charge the United States for failing to comply with, and for violating, Philippine law, as well as international norms and customs on the protection and preservation of the environment as these obligations are now codified respectively in articles 192 and 211 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

She cited the alleged dumping by Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a US naval service contractor, of hazardous wastes into Subic Bay. The contractor can be regarded under the VFA as a private personnel of the US government, she pointed out.

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‘ERGA OMNES’: The senator said the government should consider the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, specifically Article 64, which provides for a ground of termination of treaty, and Article 53, which provides for a ground of invalidity.

It is not clear if the VFA is a treaty from the viewpoint of the US since its Senate has not ratified it as such. It is categorized more as a mere Executive Agreement.

Santiago said that “the legal obligations arising from norms of customary and conventional international law are characterized by the International Court of Justice as erga omnes obligations.

Erga omnes is Latin for “towards all” or “towards everyone” — unlike a right based on contract which is enforceable against the contracting party. In international law, the term describes obligations of states towards the community of states as a whole.

Santiago explained: “The principles of international law governing the protection and conservation of the environment cannot be derogated by treaties or agreements between states. They are in the nature of jus cogens or peremptory norms of general international law.”

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JUNKING UNLIKELY: Santiago said: “The illegality of Glenn Marine Asia’s acts in toxic dumping ceases to be an individual act but is actually a breach of obligation in international law attributable to its principal, namely, the United States government. It is thus an act of State.”

Toxic wastes are being dumped in Subic Bay, she said, because of the presence there of US Navy ships. “Thus,” she said, “the act of pollution by dumping is within the concern of the VFA, a clear breach of obligation under Philippine law against pollution from ship.”

Bello said the main motivations of the US in pursuing the VFA are “to contain China’s ascent to power, and refocus its war on terror to Southeast Asia, which it has tagged as one of the training grounds of Islamic fundamentalism.”

Still, Postscript thinks VFA termination will not happen at this time. On the contrary, its effective scope might even be enlarged as the Aquino administration grapples with the growing security concerns in the region.

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PRICE MANIPULATION: At the Securities and Exchange Commission, evidence of stock price manipulation has been found involving shares of newly listed agricultural product distributor Calata Corp., leading to the criminal prosecution of an initial batch of more than 10 persons.

SEC Chair Teresita Herbosa said other individuals and institutions might be linked as more violations are uncovered. She did not identify the possible additional respondents.

“The investigation is not complete with regard to other persons and entities,” she said. “This is not just a criminal case but it also has administrative aspects.”

The investigation was ordered after P4 billion worth of transactions during the two weeks after Calata’s listing last May pushed its share prices to dizzying heights. Alarmed Calata executives themselves wrote the SEC asking it to look into the unusual price surge.

The Capital Markets Integrity Corp., an independent entity under the Philippine Stock Exchange, has identified seven persons involved in the questioned trading. But there is suspicion the persons are just dummies.

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PINOY55 EVENT: The annual Memorial Day of the UP Brotherhood of the Filipinos 1955 (Pinoy55) will be celebrated next Sunday, Nov. 25, at the Philippine Ports Authority Clubhouse in Port Area, Manila. The program focuses on the departed fraternity brods.

Pinoy55 resident president Jovani Cabanatan ‘09 said registration will start at 5:30 p.m. at the PPA Clubhouse. Regarding inquiries, pledges and donations, brods can email T-shirts can be ordered at

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 18, 2012)

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