Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 07:51:25 +0800
Subject: [asia-apec 727] US Torpedoes Endanger Communities
Precedence: bulk

In light of torpedo fiasco, junk VFA groups call on senate to reject VFA

BAYAN news release, 28 September 1998

REACTING TO media reports that two U.S.-made torpedoes discovered in Bicol waters in 1995 and 1996 continue to be a threat to the communities storing these weapons, the Junk VFA Movement and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) today warned that such will become a common occurence once the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is ratified by the Senate.

The torpedoes, said to be Mark-48 projectiles, are reported to be the world's most advanced torpedoes and are nuclear capable. One was discovered off the shores of Barangay Bakal, Paracale, Camarines Norte on Nov. 15, 1995. It may have been fired or jettisoned by U.S. submarines which were sighted off Camarines in 1995, when military exercises were said to be held.

The other torpedo was found by fisherfolk near the shores of Virac, Catanduanes in April 1996. Police authorities said it was dropped by a U.S. Navy aircraft which developed engine trouble while flying over Bicol.

Police authorities fear that both projectiles—one is stored in Bicutan, Taguig and the other in Catanduanes, Bicol—are emitting toxic chemicals or radiation, and may explode if accidentally tinkered with or exposed to thunder or lightning. U.S. authorities have until now failed to take custody of the torpedoes (See today's issue of the Journal, People's Tonight and Taliba).

More weapons of such kind may be lurking in Philippine waters, Bayan warned. It is said that from 1995-1996 alone, seven nuclear-capable U.S. vessels visited R.P. waters, e.g. USS Fife destroyer, the USS Independence aircraft carrier, the nuclear-powered submarine USS La Jolla plus two other nuclear-armed submarines.

Bayan said the vessels may also have dumped or leaked nuclear or toxic chemical wastes in R.P. waters.

Were Filipino authorities aware of the military exercises that resulted in at least one torpedo losing its way? asked Junk VFA Movement convenor Ret. Capt. Danilo Vizmanos. Did the U.S. Navy even have the courtesy of reporting these wayward weapons to our government? If yes, where are these reports? Are they being kept secret? he added.

Vizmanos said the torpedo issue puts Philippine sovereignty on the line, as it shows the government's inability to regulate or at least monitor the movement of U.S. military vessels in the country. Worse, there may even be a government-led cover-up of the whole thing. Imagine, the people were not even told of the impending danger to their lives, stressed Vizmanos.

This should serve as a frightening warning to our Senators about the threats that the VFA may foist on the people. By allowing free and unlimited access by U.S. military vessels to at least 22 Philippine ports and all landing strips, we are opening up the entire country to the risk of nuclear and chemical accident or contamination, said Bayan Deputy Secretary General Teodoro Casiño.

The Senate starts its session this week with Malaca=F1ang pushing for the immediate ratification of the VFA.

Casiño stressed that the VFA did not only cover joint R.P.-U.S. military exercises but ship visits, port calls, refueling and repairs, rest and recreation and other services as may be provided by the AFP and Philippine government to the U.S. Armed Forces.

In other words, through the VFA, we are opening up the whole country not only as a U.S. military facility but a dumping ground for conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons, Casiño said.

Vizmanos said the U.S. was responsible for the two torpedoes and should immediately take steps to diffuse the projectiles. It is condemnable for the U.S. to allow the two torpedoes to just sit there. Reports say that both weapons have been emitting various toxic elements, even radiation. Worse, they may even explode, he said.

Vizmanos reiterated the Junk VFA Movement's call for the Senate to reject the proposed VFA.