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Legarda Seeks Inquiry on Tubbataha Reef Damage

January 23, 2013

SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA HAS FILED SENATE RESOLUTION 928, SEEKING INQUIRY INTO THE REPORTED GROUNDING OF THE USS GUARDIAN IN THE TUBBATAHA REEFS NATURAL PARK (TRNP), THE COUNTRY’S PRIME MARINE PROTECTED AREA AND WORLD HERITAGE SITE.
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said that there should be full disclosure and accounting of the total damages arising from the incident which will help strengthen existing mechanisms to prevent a future similar occurrence.
“This incident highlights the need to ensure full protection of the Philippines’ marine resources by all vessels, foreign or domestic, within territorial waters amidst geo-political developments in the region,” she stressed.
On January 17, after completing its port of call in Subic, Olongapo City, the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian reportedly ran aground on Tubbataha reef while en route to its next port of call in Indonesia.
Even as its ship remained aground within the protected area, the park rangers of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) were reportedly barred by the US Navy ship commander from assessing the situation by deploying armed personnel on the dock of the ship.
“We have received reports that the personnel of the US Navy ship failed to coordinate closely with the personnel of the protected area even as their ship had already destroyed an estimated 10 meters of corals,” Legarda noted.
“A full investigation should be conducted by concerned agencies in order to strengthen existing mechanisms for protecting the World Heritage Site. Republic Act 10067, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act, clearly states that any damage to the reef shall subject the responsible person or entity to the payment of administrative fines set by the TPAMB based on current valuation standards, as well as the cost of restoration. As such, those responsible for the damage on the Tubbataha Reef should own up and pay up,” she concluded.