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PH, US reaffirm probe on Tubbataha grounding incident

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US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines and the United States (US) on Tuesday reiterated their pledge to cooperate in investigating the cause of the grounding incident at the protected Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Sea, saying that both countries agreed that preventing further damage to the reef remained a top priority.

In a joint statement by the countries released on Tuesday, officials noted that in a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday, US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. reiterated the US’ assurances to “provide appropriate compensation for the damage to the reef caused by the ship.

The statement noted that since the grounding incident, representatives from the DFA, the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), along with representatives of the US Navy and the U.S. Embassy had held a series of meetings to discuss the issue.

Various militant groups have urged the government to bring legal charges against US Navy officers and crew members of the USS Guardian, the 63-meter long minesweeper that ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef last January 17.

Reports had noted that the groups Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and the Anakpawis party-list filed a letter of complaint to the DoJ, saying that that were was enough evidence “to enforce the arrest of US Navy officials and 79 crew members of USS Guardian for extremely violating the country’s sovereignty and laws.”

Reports had also noted how the groups lamented the government’s inaction “to pursue their arrest and demand accountability from them.”

The joint statement, meanwhile, noted that during the meeting, the Philippine officials conveyed to the US representatives that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) had started its independent inquiry into the grounding incident.
“The Philippine Coast Guard formed the Maritime Casualty Investigation Team (MCIT) in accordance with its standard procedures and resolutions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on serious maritime incidents to establish the circumstances and causes of the grounding on Tubbataha Reef and to formulate safety measures to prevent a repetition of this incident,” the statement said.

“In the meeting, the two governments agreed to cooperate during investigations of the grounding incident,” the statement added.

The US embassy in Manila had also said that it would conduct “a number of other activities” to underscore its commitment to Tubbataha’s recovery and the protection of the marine resources of the Philippines.”

It had said that a separate US interdisciplinary scientific team was being formed to “initiate discussions” and coordinate with Philippine government agencies such as the Tubbataha Management Office, non-governmental organizations, and Philippine-based marine scientists and experts to “review and assess damage remediation options.”

The embassy noted that the US would grant P4.1 million or $100,000 to a Philippine university to support coral restoration research at the reef.

It said that in the next two weeks, the embassy would organize a round-table discussion with local coral reef conservation experts to listen to concerns and discuss options for conservation and restoration of the reef.

“Invitees to this discussion will include entities such as USAID, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), relevant Government of the Philippines agencies, and the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO),” it had earlier said.

The US Navy had also said that it had presented to the PCG its plan to dismantle the minesweeper and remove it in sections from the marine sanctuary. It had said the operation would utilize floating cranes to minimize damage to the world heritage site.

Latest reports had noted that from an initial estimate of 1,000 square meters, the damaged area has been pegged at 4,000 square meters.

“It is expected that the start of the salvage operation will be announced shortly. In the meantime, the United States is coordinating closely with PCG in the salvage operation to extract the USS Guardian from the reef,” the joint statement said.


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Tags: Harry Thomas Jr. , Pamalakaya , Tubbataha grounding , Tubbataha Reef , US-Philippine relations , USS Guardian

  • i_am_filipino

    WHAT WILL THE MCIT INVESTIGATE IF THERE ARE NO CASUALTIES AS THEIR TITLE SAYS MARITIME CASUALTY INVESTIGATION TEAM. THIS IS ANOTHER BURDEN FOR THE BUDGET. THE MORE GOVERNMENT FORM A NEW GROUP, THE MORE BUDGET WILL BE WASTED. I CAN CHALLENGE THEIR EXPERTISE TO SEE WHETHER THEY ARE SMART IN DEALING WITH THIS IN CONNE TION TO THE INTERNATIONAL MARITIME LAW. WHO ARE THEIR INVESTIGATION TEAM, THE PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW. WHAT ARE THEIR EXPERTISE. ARE THEY JUST MAD LAWYERS WHO KNOWS PRETENDING TO BE WELL ROUNDED ON MARITIME ISSUES. THESE MCIT IS NOT A PROPER INVESTIGATION TEAM. WHYYYYY? DID THEY INSIST TO BOARD ON SHIP AND TOOK THOUSANDS OF PICTURE. THE VESSEL IS NO LONGER SEAWORTHY AND CAN BE OVERRIDE BY THE GOVERNMENT ANYTIME. IT IS NO LONGER A PART OF THE US NAVY OR CALLED A SHIP BECAUSE IT IS GROUNDED AND ABANDONED. THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT WITH THE HELP OF US SHOULD VERIFY ALL THEIR DOCUMENTS BUT SINCE THE SHIP DOCUMENTS WERE TAKEN AWAY, IT IS EVIDENTLY AN OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE. DID THE MCIT BOARDED ALREADY THE UNSEAWORTHY SHIP TO INVESTIGATE THEIR INSTRUMENTATION, AND ITS CREW. I GUESS NO BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT CAPABLE OF DOING SO MAINLY THEY ARE NOT KNOWLEDGABLE, FAMILIAR AND NOT WELL ROUNDED ENOUGH WITH THE INTERNATIONAL REGULATION. USELESS MCIT. THE PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD SHOULD NOT BE RUN BY PEOPLE WITH LESS EXPOSURE OR EXPERIENCE. IT SHOULD BE GOVERNED BY OFFICERS WITH HEAVY EXPERIENCES ON EITHER INTERNATIONAL OR LOCAL MARITIME REGULATIONS. ILL TELL YOU SOMETHING, THESE PCG NORMALLY COMES ON BOARD A SHIP AND CONDUCT A PORT STATE CONTROL INSPECTION. THEY DONT NORMALLY GIVE A DEFICIENCY UNLESS THE VESSEL CAN GIVE THEM EXCESSIVE QUANTITY OF MARLBORO CIGARETTES OR SIMILAR KIND, BRING A SMALL EMPTY DRUM TO TKAE SOME FUELS AND OR DIESEL OR LUBOIL FOR THEIR SMALL SHIP, TAKE SOME PROVISIONS, AND BRING SOME PROSTITUTES ON ANY SHIP VISITING THE PHILIPPINES. THIS IS WHAT IVE HEARD FROM MOST SAILORS AROUND THE WORLD. TOTALLY DISGUSTING. THEY SAID THEY THOUGHT IT IS ONLY HAPPENING IN NIGERIA…

    • Crazy_horse101010

      im sorry for the remarks i made to you  i got you mixed up with the other flippino who hates whites i owe you a beer

  • http://openid.aol.com/dawn.dare Dawn

    This is all part of the American strategy to refocus their military resources in the South China Sea. Unless you prefer Chinese vessels in that part of the sea, the Americans are most certainly more welcome here.

  • Tum

    Wealth in, by, from, and through China.  Wealth, and with it, power.
    When Emilio Aguinaldo cooperated with America he was assuming that America was helping the Philippines out of benevolence.  He didn’t know that America’s aim was to make the Philippines an outpost for trade with China.  Aguinaldo, Mabini, et al were devastated by that betrayal, but of course these are topics too delicate to discuss with Filipino school children. That’s one of the reasons why many Filipinos until today believe in the benevolence of America.  They don’t know the truth and they perceive that proficiency in English gives them some sort of a world power, too.  The VFA is a strong enough presence and it renders negligible the fact that the US bases are not there anymore.  It’s just a substitute.
    History repeats itself because human nature is, well, just like what it was ever since prehistory.  But, sounding as naive as Aguinaldo et al may had been, TRUTH can influence things for a good turn.  The grounding of Guardian has now ensured the legitimate presence of US military enforcers.  The willingness to dismantle an expensive ship just because the Philippines has expressed its wish that it be removed a.s.a.p. implies a certain amount of gravity involved in the whole drama.  The US representatives has kept calm and apologetic, the Philippine government reflects the same behavior, while the common person in the Philippine streets, both protesters and non-protesters, is kept in the dark.  Your guess is as good as mine.

  • Harry Dexter White.

    Mines everywhere. 



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