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U.S. military access to Philippines poses threat to environment: political group


08:11, July 03, 2013

MANILA, July 2 (Xinhua) -- Philippine political group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) urged on Tuesday the Supreme Court to issue temporary environmental protection orders (TEPO) stopping the ongoing U.S. military exercises and port calls of their warships in the country.

The urgent motion was filed in the wake of reports that the Philippines is now considering different modalities that would allow greater U.S. military presence and access to Philippine facilities including former military bases such as those in Subic.

"The growing rotational presence in the country of these U.S. troops renders our marine protected areas highly vulnerable to destruction and degradation given the influx of military personnel, weaponry and naval and ground vessels. The unlimited access being given to these warships, without any clear environmental guidelines, reveals the fatal problems of the Visiting Forces Agreement," said Renato Reyes, Bayan spokesperson.

Bayan further claimed that the continued presence of U.S. forces is leading to an inequitable and unfair situation where U.S. respondents are using national and local government assets and resources for apparently unlimited use of Philippine ports, all at the government's expense, for their "routine" port calls, without having to pay for prior liquidated extraordinary environmental damages caused by the USS Guardian at the Tubbataha Reef last January.

The group said military maritime activities pose "heightened risk of marine trauma" not only in the Tubbataha Reef but also in other biodiversity hotspots in the Philippines.

They asked the Supreme Court to proceed hearing their petition even without a formal reply from the U.S. government.

On Jan. 17, the USS Guardian ran aground at the Tubbataha reef in Sulu Sea destroying at least 2,346 square meters of pristine and highly diverse coral ecosystems.

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