Latest Stories

Philippines fines US Navy for ‘illegal entry’

By ,

REEFS ON THE ROCKS A diver observes a sleeping shark on a ledge at the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Made up of two atolls, Tubbataha’s vertiginous walls are home to 12 species of sharks. Overfished because of the sharks’ valuable fins, Tubbataha offers one of the last guaranteed shark dives in the world. Although protected year-round by armed rangers who are stationed in two-month shifts, the reefs were defenseless against the rude intrusion of a US minesweeper three days ago when it ran aground in the Unesco-named World Heritage Site. YVETTE LEE/CONTRIBUTOR

The Philippines has fined the US Navy for “unauthorized entry” after an American minesweeper went aground on Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the Sulu Sea.

The Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board, of which WWF-Philippines is a member, was poised to send out the Notice of Violation informing the US government of its transgressions, including penalties, on Tuesday afternoon, said Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, WWF-Philippines vice chairman and chief executive officer.

“The Notice of Violation basically includes the standard penalties,” including the P25,000 fine for each square meter of affected coral provided for under the law, Tan said.

Earlier, Tubbataha park superintendent Angelique Songco said the US government would also face administrative fines from P100,000 to P300,000 for its unauthorized entry to the protected area.

The 68-meter USS Guardian had been stuck in Tubbataha Reefs, a Unesco World Heritage Site, since Jan. 17.

The ship is part of the US naval fleet stationed in Japan which docked at the former American naval base in Subic Bay on Sunday for routine refueling, resupply, and rest and recreation.

It was scheduled to make a brief stop at Puerto Princesa before heading off to its next port of call in India when it grazed the reef and got stuck 128 kilometers off Palawan.

Songco said the US crew had not asked for permission from park managers to enter the marine sanctuary, as mandated under Republic Act No. 10067, or the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009.



On top of that, she said the US government might be asked to pay between P300,000 and P1 million in “reparations” to the government for lost income from the impact of the accident on fish density.

But Tan said it would only be possible to arrive at an estimate of the damage until after the USS Guardian had been extricated from the reef.

“We cannot say how much was damaged until after the ship has been removed. In fact, we may not be able to do that until the northeast monsoon has passed,” he said, referring to cold winds blowing in from Siberia.

Tan said it may take weeks for Philippine authorities to arrive at a computation of the fines to be imposed on the US Navy.

“It’s difficult to make any estimates or projections because the damage could take a turn for the worse every day. One day it could be P10 million, then P20 million the next day,” he said.

Even so, officials formally informed the US Navy about the specific violations it committed.

The commander of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, Vice Admiral Scott Swift, apologized for the incident in a statement from Japan on Sunday.

Apologies not enough


Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the US government was liable for  damages.

“Apologies are not enough. The damage has been done. Every day the USS Guardian sits on top of our protected reefs is a day too late as far as the damage being done is concerned. We have laws that explicitly express accountability on persons or entities found to have caused damage to the Tubbataha reef,” he said in a statement.

Lift ship


Palawan Gov. Abraham Mitra has urged the US Navy to plan and implement the retrieval of the USS Guardian with utmost care to avoid further damage to the reefs.

“My advice to them is please lift the boat and not drag it. They could probably use a crane,” Mitra said in a phone interview.

Mitra said he had been advised by a US Navy officer that the operation could take five to 10 days to complete. “They told me it depends on the weather, but I told them that rescue operations should be weatherproof,” said Mitra.

“The park has suffered physical damage, the extent of which cannot be accurately estimated at this time,” said Mitra who noted that the board would issue a second formal notice to determine how much fines must be paid.

Filipino divers arrived Tuesday morning in Tubbataha Reefs to assess the damage, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Both the Philippine Navy and US Navy have dispatched teams to conduct an assessment of the damage.

Baseline assessment


Before the US Navy would begin salvaging the USS Guardian, divers from the Philippine Coast Guard and Navy would go down the reef for a “baseline assessment,” said Undersecretary Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson.

“First, the US side will be assessing if there is any damage to the ship. On our part, before the actual salvage operation begins, Coast Guard and Navy divers will go down to gather information for a baseline assessment,” she said in a briefing.

The objectives were to gather data for baseline assessment and check any indication of oil spill, but so far there was no leak from the ship, Valte said.

After the USS Guardian shall have been salvaged, the divers would go down again “to gather more data” and compare the impact of the grounding before and after extrication, she said.

Transportation Secretary Joseph E.A. Abaya said on Monday the investigation of the grounding would not begin until after the ship had been salvaged.   With a report from AFP

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Foreign affairs , Global Nation , Maritime Accidents , Sulu Sea , Tubbataha Reefs , US Navy , World Wide Fund

  • alikabok357

    There is such a term as “right of innnocent passage”  in the international law of the sea.  Maybe what the article means is the US should be fined for the damages in marine life, not unauthorized entry. 

  • http://joboni96.myopenid.com/ joboni96

    kompiskahin na yang barko na yan tulad sa mga intsik switik fishermen
    ng may magamit pang depensa sa mga intsik switik

    another imperialist psywar operation
    to break down pilipino resistance to recolonization

    the recovered drone was another similar psywar operation of the imperialist
    yung sa scarborough, tonkin style pakana din nila


    mapapahamak tayo sa kabobohan ng u.s. navy

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

       paranoia will destroy ya

      • http://joboni96.myopenid.com/ joboni96

        para sa mga school shooters yan
        in imperialist land

    • A_wanderer

      North Korea awaits you comrade!  

      Yankee Go Home!  

      Viva la Revolution!

      If you have any further questions about the islands (including Palawan itself) China would be happy to guide you.

      Down with history based realpolitik!
      Slogans and chants are our salvation!

      • http://joboni96.myopenid.com/ joboni96

        neither here nor there

  • A_wanderer

    Ah, what a great shame that this accident did not happen during the reign of her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo!

    She and her co-conspirators surely would have stood up for the dignity of the Philippine Nation by having the US Navy pay a nice big juicy fine (which would have gone sideways into an offshore bank account or two….).  Such bad timing must be aggravating that neck condition of hers!

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Filipina, 51, shot dead by 24-year-old American boyfriend
  2. 19 Ukrainians, Russians, Filipinas rescued in bar raid
  3. Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted
  4. China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions
  5. Believe it or not: Filipinos love US more than Yanks
  6. PH, HK end bitter row; sanctions lifted
  7. PH seeks ‘clearer assurance’ from US
  8. Obama arrives in Tokyo, first stop of 4-nation tour
  9. Palace thanks Estrada for successful HK mission
  10. US Secret Service in Manila ahead of Obama visit
  1. Filipina, 51, shot dead by 24-year-old American boyfriend
  2. Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  3. Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted
  4. Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
  5. 85% of Filipinos love US – survey
  6. 10 US presidents who visited the PH (and what they said)
  7. WHO warns vs spread of MERS-Cov, urges vigilance in taking precautions
  8. 19 Ukrainians, Russians, Filipinas rescued in bar raid
  9. 150 Filipino teachers in Maryland to lose jobs, visas
  10. Japan mulls no visa rule for Filipinos
  1. US to China: We will protect Philippines
  2. Japan mulls no visa rule for Filipinos
  3. DFA grants visa-free privilege to 7 countries
  4. China warned: Don’t try to tow away BRP Sierra Madre
  5. Back home in Manila, and feeling out of place
  6. Filipina, 51, shot dead by 24-year-old American boyfriend
  7. Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  8. China: PH tarnishing Beijing’s international image
  9. What’s inside BRP Sierra Madre?
  10. Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted


  • Security in place for Obama as police hope for ‘peaceful’ visit
  • Retired SC justice Lorenzo Relova; 98
  • Ligots fight 2nd forfeiture case
  • PH will be partly cloudy in afternoon, evening—Pagasa
  • Ex-COA chief nabbed for plunder
  • Sports

  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • Galedo caps ride of redemption
  • Beermen, Express dispute second semis slot today
  • Lady Agilas upset Lady Bulldogs in four sets
  • NLEX roars to 7th D-League win
  • Lifestyle

  • ‘Recovered’ Banksy works on display ahead of sale
  • Marinduque: Visiting the ‘palm of the ocean’
  • First at Vatican in 60 years
  • How Jing Monis Salon gave Krissy the pixie
  • Want to be a supermodel? Work on your inner beauty, says Joey Espino
  • Entertainment

  • Paul McCartney to play at Candlestick concert
  • Kristoffer Martin: from thug to gay teen
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Cris Villonco on play adapted from different medium
  • Business

  • PAL hailed for ban on shark fin cargo
  • BSP to change tint of P100 bill
  • Nielsen sees car buying boom in the Philippines
  • How author of best-seller exposed ‘one percent’ economic elite
  • Bangko Sentral readies new bank lending rules
  • Technology

  • Cloud strength helps Microsoft earnings top Street
  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • Opinion

  • Editorial Cartoon, April 25, 2014
  • No deal, Janet
  • Like making Al Capone a witness vs his gang
  • MERS-CoV and mothers
  • A graduation story
  • Global Nation

  • Only 4 Etihad passengers not accounted for
  • Abandoned in Malta,15 PH seamen return
  • Senator hopes PH will also get same vow
  • HK victims to get P115M; traders raised money
  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 US doctors, including Fil-Am pediatrician
  • Marketplace