FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City – While the US government is liable for the damage one of its ships had caused along the Tubbataha Reef when it ran aground in January, the sailors responsible may not be punished as they are considered “men of war.”
“It becomes tricky diyan, ’cause it’s an accepted general practice of international law, that men of war, foreign naval vessels, enjoy immunity, especially if there is a line of duty, so that has been practiced nationwide, so it would be difficult on that part,” Department of Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said.
Speaking to reporters at the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Homecoming here, Abaya, a member of PMA Class 1988, said that their investigation was still ongoing and the damage has yet to be assessed.
“Hindi pa rin ma-assess eh, dahil di naman gumalaw yung barko, so we can only get an accurate picture if we’ve already lifted the ship,” he said.
“Some say they probably enjoyed too much of an RnR in Subic, some say, they said, error in digital charts, some say they were doing a different thing there on their own, all speculations, so it would be irresponsible on my part to even assume,” he said when asked what could probably be the reason why the ship USS Guardian ran aground.
Abaya said they were trying to be confident that the salvage operations would be finished by March.
“We try to be confident dahil coincidental ang operations dun eh, all dependent on the weather di ba, in as much as we want na tuluy-tuloy yung trabaho, pag lumala yung panahon, for personal safety we have to stop,” he said.
The JASCON 25, the main asset for the salvage operations for the ship, arrived Friday from Singapore.