MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday said the United States had to explain how and why its ship had run aground in a protected area like the Tubbataha Reefs but the “first priority” was to remove the USS Guardian and contain the damage it made in the world heritage site.
“After they do that and we’re finished with the immediate issue, then they have to answer so many things. What are you doing in an environmentally protected area?” Aquino told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview following the turnover ceremonies of the new Commanding General of the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio.
Aquino noted that US Navy ships had “some of the most sophisticated navigational equipment.”
“And when you assess liabilities and culpabilities, exactly what are the mechanisms or what do they have to pay us? Fines? What are the sanctions? But that has to be secondary to removing the ship,” he said.
Aquino said that in removing the USS Guardian from the reef, “we want to ensure that there would not be more damage created.”
“The first priority is stop the damage being made,” he said.
Aquino noted that the Coast Guard is already at the area with oil booms to ensure that it could immediately contain any leak from the ship.
Meanwhile, US Vice Adm. Thomas Carney, the Logistics Group Commander for the Western Pacific, had left Puerto Princesa, Palawan, for Tubbataha Reef on Monday to oversee the recovery operations for the USS Guardian minesweeper.