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Unesco asked to help assess damage to reef

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The USS Guardian AP/AFP WESCOM

MANILA, Philippines—An official of the Climate Change Commission on Saturday asked the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) to assess the damage wrought on the Tubbataha Reefs by the USS Guardian which ran aground on the World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea.

Commissioner Heherson Alvarez also warned the Philippine government against accepting payment for the damage on a square meter basis, calling the fine a measly sum compared to the damage done to the coral reefs.

“It is far too simplistic to fine the US Navy on the basis of P12,000 per square meter or a measly sum of P12 million for some 1,000 square meters of damaged corals, as proposed by some quarters, because the reef  is not a fallow or dormant  plot of land in the seabed,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez proposed that Unesco be formally invited by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which has jurisdiction over the marine park, to independently assess the damage, help determine a fair amount of investment required to rehabilitate and allow the reef to recover over a given period of time.

Unesco would be in the best position to estimate the required amount for the total recovery of the damaged reef and the amount of work and time this will involve, he said.

Alvarez, a former chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and DENR secretary, further said that Unesco, which declared the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park a World Heritage Site in 1993, had the resources and expertise to make a scientific assessment which should be the basis for fining the US Navy.

Pointing out that a coral reef is a living, growing ecosystem of marine bio-diversity, Alvarez stressed that it is also a barrier that protects coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms.

“The creation of the Tubbataha marine park was a recognition that fishing is historically important to our culture and economy. While the park aims at conservation, it also provides an anchor for the fishing industry in southern Philippines as a spawning ground, promotes tourism, and addresses mounting environmental threats,” Alvarez said.

He said it was time for the Philippines to reexamine the governance of shipping and sea lanes through the Tubbataha Reef with the goal of imposing high deterrence fees for sailing through these waters in cases of violations or accidents.

Alvarez noted that in October 2005 the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, ran aground on Tubbataha Reef, damaging approximately 100 square meters. Greenpeace paid a fine of about $7,000.


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Tags: Heherson Alvarez , Tubbataha Reefs , UNESCO , World Heritage Site

  • mumbaki ak

    Right! Call in the experts.

  • dequis

    paano ba napunta barkong iyan diyan, eh bahura iyan. ang mga bahura ay nasa mga navigational charts. napaka balahura, napaka bobo pala ng mga kano sa navigasyon.

    • kanoy

       YOU SAY THAT REEF IS ON THE NAVIGATION CHARTS? ARE YOU CERTAIN? WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU LOOKED AT THOSE CHARTS? WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME? THE USS GUARDIAN IS SMALL ENOUGH TO FIT INTO TONDO,,,,,IT IS NOT AS BIG AS MANILLA,,,IT IS NOT TWICE THE SIZE OF MANILLA,,,BUT THEN,,,,WHAT DO YOU CARE$$$$

      An official of the Climate Change Commission on Saturday asked the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) to assess the damage wrought on  “the rape of the ocean” took place in the Philippines where poachers decimated an entire reef area almost twice the size of Manila harvesting over 21,000 pieces of black coral and killing 161 endangered sea turtles and other marine life.

      Bureau of Customs officials intercepted the contraband two weeks ago and recovered 134 bundles, or 21,169 pieces, of “sea fan” black corals and 15 bundles, or 196 kilograms, of “sea whip” black corals that was taken from an area located off the coast of Cotabato province. Tragically one of the many turtles killed was a male with and estimated age of 80 to 100 years old.

      “The Moro Gulf and the Sulu Sea off Cotabato are supposed to be unexplored reef areas but with this collection, we can see that they have also been disturbed,” said Ludivina Labe, a senior marine biologist of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

      “It’s like a forest that has been cut down,” Labe said. “One reef complex was decimated.”

      Since each piece of black coral represents one colony, they estimate the harvest area could be as large at 7,000 hectacres that is roughly twice the size of the city of Manila. To put this in U.S. perspective, Manila is around 1,399 sq. km in area

      The rough market value of the seized contraband is around PHP 35 million or over $800,000 USD. Studies by the World Wildlife Fund estimate that the economic cost of over a 25-year period of destroying one kilometer of coral reef is somewhere between $137,000 and $1,200,000 USD. Black coral is harvested and used to make exotic jewelery.

      • dequis

        sinasabi doon sa mga charts alin ang mababaw at alin ang malalim sa laot, para makaiwas ang mga barko lalot kapag gabi naglalakbay ang mga barko. hindi nawawala sa mga charts iyan kahit tatlo o dalawa o isang dekada pa ako huling nakakita ng chart, kung kaya napatanong ako paano napunta riyan ang barkong iyan. anyway salamat sa information na dinugtong mo sa sagot mo sa comment ko.

      • kanoy

         OF COURSE I WOULD COMMENT ON YOUR ”PULL IT OUT YOUR A$$” COMMENT CONCERNING THOSE CHARTS,,,,YOU ARE NOT A NAVAL NAVIGATOR AND HAVE NEVER READ A NAVAL CHART, YOU EVEN ADD TO THAT FACT BY ALLUDING TO DECADES OLD CHARTS BEING ACCURATE WHILE NOTHING ON EARTH CHANGES FASTER THAN THE EVER MOVING SEAS DUE TO CURRENTS UNDERTOWS TIDES SUN MOON AND AQUATIC LIFE AS AN INSTANCE…..

        Navy cartographers say navigation through the Indian Ocean will be problematic for YEAR’S due to last month’s violent earthquake and deadly tsunami, both of which altered normal shipping routes.
        THE CHARTS THE US NAVY USES TO NAVIGATE PHILIPPINE WATERS WHERE MADE BY…THE PHILIPPINES? HOW DID THE RP MAKE THEM? USING WHAT EQUIPMENT?
        Nautical charts are based on hydrographic surveys. As surveying is laborious and time-consuming, hydrographic data for many areas of sea may be dated and not always reliable. Depths are measured in a variety of ways. Historically the sounding line was used. In modern times, echo sounding is used for measuring the seabed in the open sea. When measuring the safe depth of water over an entire obstruction, such as a shipwreck, the minimum depth is checked by sweeping the area with a length of horizontal wire. This ensures that difficult to find projections, such as masts, do not present a danger to vessels navigating over the obstruction.

        Nautical charts are issued by the national hydrographic offices in many countries. These charts are considered “official” in contrast to those made by commercial publishers. Many hydrographic offices provide regular, sometimes weekly, manual updates of their charts through their sales agents. Individual hydrographic offices produce national chart series and international chart series. Coordinated by the International Hydrographic Organization, the international chart series is a worldwide system of charts (“INT” chart series), which is being developed with the goal of unifying as many chart systems as possible.

  • al veccino

    Surprise! gagawin lahat ng Amerika lahat ng paraan magkaroon lang ng dahilan magpadala ng personnel sa SE Asia near W Phil sea. This is enough reason to send assets and survey the area. Wala imik ang China.

  • INQ_reader

    american stupidity – day 19 on 2/4/13



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