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Save reef not US ship, says PH government

By , Gil Cabacungan

Giant waves batter the USS Guardian, a minesweeper that ran aground in the POWERLESS. Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Sea, tossing the ship some 90 degrees from its position on Thursday (inset) and making it parallel to the reef line. The photographs are courtesy of the AFP Western Command

The United States Navy has sent 10 American divers to assess the situation and brought in two private salvor ships to try to extricate its minesweeper that got stuck on Tubbataha Reef, a world-renowned marine sanctuary in the Sulu Sea, the Philippine Navy said on Sunday.

Environmentalists have expressed worry the extraction may damage the reef more. Palawan Gov. Abraham Mitra called on Philippine authorities to take charge of the operation so that priority could be given to saving the coral reef rather than the US ship.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Favic, US Navy spokesperson, said the American divers were accompanied by nine Philippine Coast Guard personnel aboard the Navy’s BRP Mangyan.

The divers, who took off from Puerto Princesa City in Palawan, were tasked to find the best way to free the trapped US warship, the USS Guardian, which ran aground before dawn on Thursday.

“They also brought with them an oil spill boom just in case there would be an oil leak once the ship is pulled from the grounding site,” Favic said.

“There is no reported oil spill as of now,” he added.

Favic said the two private tugboats contracted by the United States arrived in Tubbataha on Saturday from Subic, Zambales.

“These are special tugboats arranged by the US,” Favic said.

Maj. Oliver Banaria, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 6th Civil Relations Group based in Palawan, said that besides the Mangyan, the BRP Rizal and BRP Ismael Lomibao sailed to the area to monitor the situation.

“Our boats are located one to two knots away from the Guardian,” Banaria told the Inquirer over the phone.

Favic said he could not say if the tugboats had started pulling the trapped US ship, saying this was entirely a US operation and he had not received reports from the three Philippine ships in the area.

With the 688-meter ship lying on some 10 meters of coral, environmentalists have expressed fears of more extensive damage from the planned extraction.

The Palawan governor said the Philippine government should take charge of the problem rather than just leaving it to the United States.

“The reef (a heritage site) should be the priority not the ship. They can always build a new boat but it takes a lifetime for the reef to recover. As a responsible country, the US should exert all efforts in reef rehab and conservation efforts as millions of fishermen rely on it to feed their fishing grounds in the surrounding areas. We should take the lead and not allow the US to call the shots,” said Mitra.

“In our view, the Philippine focus should be on protecting our asset—the marine park. The Americans can focus on their asset—the ship. We should certainly help them, but only to make sure that our natural capital is not further damaged. Millions of fishermen count on us to protect their livelihood.”

Malacañang, however, seems to be in no hurry to hold the US Navy accountable for the accident even as a militant group called for an inspection of the ship.

Aquino willing to wait

President Aquino’s deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said the executive branch would first await the outcome of an investigation into the USS Guardian’s grounding before deciding on the accountability of the ship or its crew for any damage to the reef.

“It’s more prudent to wait for the results of the investigation that will be conducted by the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs), DND (Department of National Defense) and other agencies, and then come up with recommendations in light of laws that we have in place,” Valte said over government radio.

She said the immediate concern was to extricate the ship “with the least damage” to the marine sanctuary, recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.

The ship, manned by 80 sailors, is part of the US naval fleet stationed in Sasebo, Japan, which docked at the former American naval base in Subic Bay on Sunday for routine refueling, resupply, and rest and recreation. The ship was scheduled to make a brief stop at Puerto Princesa before heading off to its next port call in India when it grazed the reef and got stuck 128 kilometers off Palawan.

The US Navy initially blamed a faulty map used by the minesweeper that misplaced the location of the Tubbataha Reef.

Puppetry, subservience

Meanwhile, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan on Sunday pressed the government to assert its sovereignty and ascertain the real status of the ship. It said the Philippines had the right to inspect the ship.

“It is patently embarrassing that the Philippine government does not even want, at this point, to raise the issue of liability of US troops in the destruction of our coral reef. It smacks of puppetry and subservience. Whatever happened to asserting sovereignty?” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said.

Reyes also called on the government to stop further port calls by US forces in view of the grounding.

“The frequency of port calls supposedly allowed under the VFA transforms the country into a virtual military base. They come here anytime, roam our waters freely, and engage in unspecified activities,” Reyes said.

“And when incidents happen, like the dumping of toxic waste or the destruction of our coral reef, the US seems to buck any kind of accountability and even disrespects our local authorities. So why should we allow US ships to continue making port calls? Why allow the VFA to continue,” he added.  He said the US should pay damages for any destruction to the reef.

The Aquino administration has welcomed the presence of US naval forces in Asia in view of a brewing conflict with regional superpower China over territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), among them parts of the Spatlys group of islands, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits. With a report from TJ Burgonio


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Tags: Abraham Mitra , minesweeper , Philippine coral reefs , Philippine Navy , Philippine tourism , scuba diving , Sulu Sea , Tubbataha Reefs , United States Navy , USS Guardian , VFA , Visiting Forces Agreement

  • Simplify1

    Siphon off all the oil, gas and other contaminants  from the ship and allow this to sink to replace the damaged corals.  The ship will then be used as a new haven for marine mammals…. magandang bahayan yan ng TALABA!!

    • sh1seadad

      Drop out of the NPA it is no good for you. You and your young friends have been brainwashed. Communism is not a good way to live. Young southern Filipinos must help to build you country city’s and towns. China under communism is not as great a place as you may think it is. Many young Filipinos were brainwashed during and after the Marcos dictatorship especially the young ones in collage this is where a lot of this brainwashing takes place. You must all brake away from this mentality and build a free and democratic nation. Do not listen to Reyes and your NPA bosses they are leading you and your nation down the wrong path.

      • Simplify1

        I see that you are totally out of your depth! Which part of my comment stated that I was pro chinese or pro NPA? For all I care, they can all crawl under the rocks from where they came. My comment is about how blatantly these americans abuse our confidence with them and how their arrogance caused damage to our reefs! Gusto mo ba na forgive and forget na lang ang nangyari? Or, perhaps you are just fulfilling you sad existence as a troll?

  • Renesky

    Pinagbayad si Ginoong Manny Pangilinan ng mahigit 1 Bilyong peso bilang kabayaran sa pagkasira ng kalikasan idinulot “mine tailings spill” sa Padcal Mines at ito ay nararapat lamang. Nararapat din na pagbayarin ang bansang Amerika sa pangyayaring ito. Ginoong Paje, ilabas mo na ang iyong “calculator”, please!

  • Manuel Pacquiao

     Joe Kano, sabi ko “Little Brown Americans” ang tawag sa katulad mo. “little” ba? understand? ano yung little sa iyo, ikaw na mag-isip. okay?  bvwahahahahaha

    • http://twitter.com/Joe_The_Kano Joe Kano

        Nagseselos ka ba?

  • tomtom55

    Bakit ora-oradang inabandon? At bakit hanggang ngayon ay wala pa oil spill? Hindi kaya nuclear-powered ang USS Guardian?

    Nakapagtataka…

  • dikoy321

    It is patently embarrassing that the BAYAN could open its mouth against the US, while mum when China took Scarborough Shoal !!!

    It smacks of BAYAN’s puppetry and subservience of China !

    BAYAN-Renato Reyes, whatever happened to asserting sovereignty?” 

    How much CASH from China Renato Reyes? 

    Why the silence ???

    Forward Philippines !!!

  • To_Be_Continued

    Renato Reyes.

    You are so full of   s h i t. Pinaghirapan ko yang tax money na bahagi ng sweldo at pork barrel mo, pinamumudmud mo lang sa media to advance your blind anti-western and rabid pro-communist agenda. Wala kang hiya !

  • sh1seadad

    Drop out of the NPA it is no good for you. You and your young friends have been brainwashed. Communism is not a good way to live. Young southern Filipinos must help to build you country city’s and towns. China under communism is not as great a place as you may think it is. Many young Filipinos were brainwashed during and after the Marcos dictatorship especially the young ones in collage this is where a lot of this brainwashing takes place. You must all brake away from this mentality and build a free and democratic nation. Do not listen to Reyes and your NPA bosses they are leading you and your nation down the wrong path.

  • zeroko

    Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansa Makabayan is a fool.He is nothing but a fool. Nobody wants these incident to happen, not the Americans who are always walking in a tight rope with it”s relationship with our Filipino-Chinese dominated government. Remember that each time the Americans makes a slip, these pro-Chinese traitors in and out of our government is up in arms in criticizing  the Americans. Although anti-American is not the sentiment of 98% of Filipinos, just the same, these Pro-Chinese anti American sector which numbers just a few are really noisy.

    The reason for this is most if not all of our media here in the Philippines is not owned by real Filipinos. The real owners are Chinese themselves. So, it is so easy for these pro-Chinese to make loud noise. 

    Just last year, a ship was aground in New Zealand, and it created havoc on a similar pristined area in New Zealand. In the New Zealand incident, extensive damage happened because there was so much oil spill. And the New Zealand  never criticize the Filipinos per se, they understand that what happened was an accident. Anyway, they did what has to be done, they imprisoned the Filipino Captain of that Container ship instead of making anti-Filipino remarks. 

    Unlike in the case of that American ship. Nobody wants that to happen. Not the Americans. Their race is a decent race unlike the human fetus eating race lke China. Now, our pro-Chinese Filipino Chinese both in the government and outside are making so much noise, they would even want to renegotiate the VFA again. I really do not know why 98% stupid Filipinos would not like their voice be heard. These 98% stupid Filipinos would just let the 2% pro-Chinese traitor Filipinos speak for them. Kaya tayo binansagan na bansa ng mga alipin at bansa ng mga uto uto because we just want to settle down and be abuse. We even let the Chinese mouthpiece speak for us Filipinos. Kalilan pa ba tayo magsasalita para saa ating kapakanan? Kung galit na ang America at tuluyan na tayong iniwanan?

  • zeroko

    Beware pf Renato Reyes, he is a Chinese puppet. He is a Chinese agent. I do not know why our Chinese Dominated government allowed a Chinese leaning party-list like Bagong Alyansang Makabayan to run.. That  party-list does not represent any marginalized poor, it is a mouth piece of China! Better if the pro-Chinese in the Senate joint the “Bagong Alyansang Makabayan like Lady Senator Miriam Santiago Defensor, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Joker Arroyo, Chiz Escudero, Mr. Noted, Pangilinan, and former Senator of Maguindanao, Migz Zubiri.Senator Trillianes, also a Chinese will follow soon. These pro-Chinese Senators is better of if they identify themselves and joint up with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. 

    Kung galit ang Filipino-Chinese government sa Communist like what they brand the NPAs, wh;y not also brand the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan as a security threat, so are the pro-Chinese leaning Senators? Mukhang ang kaya lang ng MIlitary at PNP ay mga walang kalaban laban na mga Pilipino na walang ginawa kundi ipagtangol ang sarili nilang lupa. How many times do we hear about  military killing Filipinos in the hinter lands? This happens because our military are acting like lop-dogs to the Chinese investors who would not mind stealing the ancestral land of our indigenous people. And if the minority objects to the invasion, our puppet military takes over and kill those who resist. 

    One of the worst thing these Filipino-Chinese did was to sterilize thousands of indigenous women in Mindanao sponsored by a Chinese Mayor of that place. We have the case of a vanishing breed on account that the indigenous people has hard time surviving because their habitat were already been destroyed by illegal logging and finally delivered the coup de grace by the Chinese miners.

    And now, the final blow, to exterminate them the Filipino-Chinese Mayor sterilize them.,We allowed these Filipino- speaking Chinese fools to talk us up to surrender our country to them. . 

  • Pinoy_Reich

    We are lucky it was a US navy ship that got stuck in the reef otherwise if it was a Chinese one, boy they’d probably plant a flag there now and claim it belongs to China.



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