US liable for ship accident in Tubbataha reef—Santiago

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Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Rising from her sick bed, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago slammed on Tuesday, the United States’ “magnanimity” over its warship’s destruction of the Tubbataha Reef, saying it should be held accountable for violations of both local and international laws instead of calling it an accident and promising compensation for the priceless marine park.

In her first public appearance nearly a month since taking a sick leave from the Senate, Santiago called out the US government for the “unspeakable crime” that its minesweeper, the USS Guardian, had inflicted on the world heritage site.

“The only defense of the Americans is that they allegedly used a faulty map that misplaced the location of the Reef. In other words, the Americans seem to admit that they were sloppy with their map, and that they were arrogant with the Filipino park rangers whose advice [for the ship to avoid the protected area] they disregarded,” a fired-up Defensor told a packed theater at the University of the Philippines in Manila late afternoon on Tuesday.

“Imagine they are a high-tech society, they have the gall to say our maps are wrong? This is the high-tech society? Can you actually buy wrong maps? And of all the maps out there, they happened to buy the wrong one?” Defensor said, prompting both applause and laughter from her audience.

The Guardian ran aground the reef in a protected area in the Sulu Sea on Jan. 17 as it sailed to Indonesia after a routine port call at Subic Bay in Olongapo City, a former US naval base.

The US Navy had said faulty navigation equipment may have misplaced the reef on its map, leading to the collision. Working against forces of the sea, the US Navy has decided to dismantle the $277 million ship, having earlier declared it no longer fit for use due to heavy hull damage.

Several US officials, including US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. and a delegation of US lawmakers who visited recently, have apologized for the incident and promised “appropriate compensation” for damages on the reef.

But Santiago, for one, is not happy about the Americans’ promise, saying they should first admit accountability and stop calling the grounding an accident.  The senator cited the account of Tubbataha park rangers who had warned the ship against sailing into the protected area but were instead told off by armed US sailors.

She also branded Thomas’ statement and apology as “doublespeak” as calling the grounding an accident “implies that the act of the US ship involved no negligence or fault.”

“In my view, the statement issued by the US embassy makes American compensation and other activities look like foreign assistance, for which we Filipinos are expected to be grateful! Gee, thanks for bumping into our reef!” said Santiago.

“I am concerned that the American offer of compensation is made to appear, not as a dictate of legal obligation under international law, but as an indulgence in American magnanimity,” she said.

The Senator, for long advocating the repeal of the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement, said the US not only violated Philippine laws but also international laws.

“International law is clear that whether or not there was negligence or fault on the part of the US warship, under the principle of state responsibility, the US government is responsible for the partial destruction of Tubbataha Reef, which some say will need 250 years to be fully restored,” said Santiago.

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  • joerizal

    Ewan ko ba kung bakit pinagdidiinan ang US sa nangyari. Inamin naman nila na sila ang may kasalanan. Ginagawan naman nila ng paraan para matanggal yung barko nila at ma-minimize ang damage sa reef. Magbabayad din sila. So ano pa ang nginangakngak ng iba diyan? Bakit hindi China ang bungangaan niyo? Sila ang umuubos ng pawikan at coral sa Scarborough at walang balak magbayad.

  • Crazy_horse101010

    the reason that the anti americanism is at a long time high is because of people are using it for their own agendas and being constantly hammered in the press. the american haters are having a field day. everyone has to have their 15 minutes of fame. the same bleeding hearts who sit back and do nothing while the reefs are being destroyed from within

    • kilawon

      american pigs has caused so much distress in the world .ie economic
      depression, war in middle east,deposing world leaders they don’t like etc……you dont  own the world ok! there are lot to hate than to love!

      • Crazy_horse101010

        then leave the world you have my permission speaking of hate you ever read what you write racists. lets america leave and send back all flippinos and build fence around this country. see how long it will be before you will be eating each other. i hope your the first lechon tata

  • Filipino_Believer

    Sen Santiago claims international law  was violated by the US Navy in the minor reef accident     But when it comes to China’s claims on Philippine territories, she won’t even cite international law to protect the country.  During the early days of the Panatag stand off, Sen Santiago was even quick to propose that the Philippines should just cooperate with China and share the resources that China wants.  She said this in spite of her expertise in international law and even if China has not presented their ancient map that they say will support their historical claim.

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