MANILA, Philippines – Senator Loren Legarda is seeking a “full investigation” by the Senate on the reported grounding of the USS Guardian in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) last week.
Legarda filed Senate Resolution 928, directing the Senate committee on foreign affairs, which she heads, to conduct an inquiry on the incident, saying there should be “full disclosure and accounting of the total damage arising from the incident which will help strengthen existing mechanisms to prevent a future similar occurrence.”
“A full investigation should be conducted by concerned agencies in order to strengthen existing mechanisms for protecting the World Heritage Site,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.
Legarda said Republic Act 10067 known as 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 Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (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 pointed out.
“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 added.
The US ship ran aground on Tubbataha reef last January 17 while en route to its next port of call in Indonesia.
And even as its ship remained aground within the protected area, the park rangers of the TPAMB were reportedly barred by the US Navy ship commander from assessing the situation by deploying armed personnel on the dock of the ship, the resolution noted.
“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 said.