Holding the United States Accountable for Environmental Damages Caused by the U.S. Military in the Philippines: A Plan for the Future
Kim D. Chanbonpin
The John Marshall Law School
Asian-Pacific Law & Policy, Journal Vol. 4, No. 320, 2003
In reviewing the terms of the Balikatan joint military exercises each year, the Philippine government should negotiate a more equitable agreement with the United States. A fair and balanced agreement would require specific provisions detailing liability for potential environmental degradation as a result of the joint exercises. The current military activities in the Philippines will result in further damage to the environment. In order to achieve an equitable arrangement, the United States must admit that it has a responsibility to remedy the hazardous waste contamination at its former military bases in the Philippines. By reviewing past wrongs and the effect of ecological harm on the human inhabitants of the areas affected, both countries can move towards creating a new, mutually acceptable covenant, in conformity with international expectations of non-discrimination and equitable treatment. Three different sources of law are relevant to my analysis: international environmental law, Philippine domestic law, and U.S. federal environmental statutes.
Part II provides an abbreviated historical introduction to the archipelago now known as the Republic of the Philippines. Although the Philippines had always been a gathering place of diverse peoples, it was not until the Spaniards arrived in Mactan, Cebu that a colonial history began. The colonial period continued after 1898, when the United States inaugurated an era of imperial domination, military occupation, and social and cultural control that still flourishes today. Although the Philippines was granted independence from direct U.S. governance in 1946, the constant presence of the U.S. military since that time undercuts the true sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines. The control and authority that the United States continues to exercise over the Philippines provides a compelling historical reason why damage to the environment caused by the U.S. military, as discussed in Part III, should be acknowledged and paid for by the United States government.
In attempting to create a legal context for the United States' liability for prospective and past damage to the environment in the Philippines, Part IV outlines several principles of international environmental law. This section covers a wide range of issues, including the impact of environmental degradation on universally applicable human rights, prohibitions on pollution, and liability regimes. Although international law contains many "soft" law provisions and therefore can be criticized as having no force or effect, an analysis of the applicable environmental laws of the United States in Part V will reveal that domestic U.S. laws concerning the environment capture essentially the main principles of international law. United States environmental statutes, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) impose the same restrictions on pollution and the same duties for remediation that are found in international as well as Philippine domestic law.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 64
Keywords: international environmental law, militaryAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: April 27, 2010
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