SC asked to impose higher fines for Tubbataha reef


In a photo released by the U.S. Navy, the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian sits aground in this Jan. 22, 2013 file photo on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea in the Philippines. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Environmentalists and other civil society groups on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to impose a fine 12 times higher than the P58 million the Philippines asked the United States to pay in compensation for the damage caused by  a US warship to the Tubbataha reef.

At the same time, they are seeking prosecution of the officers of the USS Guardian minesweeper which ran aground on Tubbataha on January 17 and damaged at least 2,345 square meters of the protected reef.

The petitioners, who include Catholic bishops and leftwing groups, would like the high tribunal to issue  a temporary environmental protection order for Tubbataha reef.

In the 90-page petition, they are seeking to stop the joint Philippine-US war games and port calls by US ships until clear guidelines on environmental protection under the Visiting Forces Agreement are in  place.

The petition was filed exactly three months since the grounding of the USS Guardian in the Tubbataha Reef, a United Nations Heritage Site.

Petitoners include Bishop Pedro D. Arigo of Puerto Princesa,Palawan, Bishop Deogracias S.Iniguez, Jr., Bishop-Emeritus of Caloocan, Frances Q. Quimpo, Clemente G. Bautista, Jr. of Kalikasan-Pne, Maria Carolina P. Araullo and Renato M. Reyes Jr. of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares of Bayan Muna Party-List, Roland G. Simbulan, Ph.D., Junk Vfa Movement, , Teresita R. Perez, Ph.D., Rep. Raymond V. Palatino, Kabataan Party-List, Peter SJ. Gonzales of Pamalakaya, Giovanni A. Tapang, Ph.D., Agham, Elmer C. Labog, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Joan May E. Salvador, Gabriela, diver Jose Erique A. Africa, Theresa A. Concepcion, Mary Joan A. Guan, Nestor T. Baguinon, Ph.D., and public interest lawyer Edsel F. Tupaz.

Named respondents in the petition are Scott H. Swift, Commander Of The U.S. 7th Fleet; Mark A. Rice, Commanding Officer Of The USS Guardian; President Benigno S. Aquino III for being the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces Of The PhilippinesForeign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, Environment Secretary Ramon Jesus P. Paje, Vice Admiral Jose Luis M. Alano, Philippine Navy Flag Officer In Command, Armed Forces Of The Philippines,Admiral Rodolfo D. Isorena, Commandant, Philippine Coast Guard,Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, Philippine Coast Guard Palawan, Major Gen. Virgilio O. Domingo, Commandant Of Armed Forces Of The Philippines Command, Lt. Gen. Terry G. Robling, Us Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, And Balikatan 2013 Exercise Co-Director.

The petitioners argued that the US Navy could not invoke immunity under the VFA. Citing a Supreme Court ruling, they said “courts of the Philippines have jurisdiction over crimes committed aboard merchant vessels anchored in our jurisdiction waters.”

Among the violations committed by the US Navy, according to the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB),  include unauthorized entry, non-payment of conservation fees, obstruction of law enforcement officer, damages to the reef, destroying, disturbing resources.

The petitioners are demanding a fine of $16.8 up to $27 million.

Comparing valuations in the 2009 grounding of the USS Port Royal in Hawaii, the petitioners believe that the amount they are asking is reasonable. Four years ago under similar circumstances, the US Navy paid the state of Hawaii a total of $15 million for restoration and settlement, for damage to an Oahu reef; which while larger than Tubbataha, has not been identified as a World Heritage Site.

Petitioners cited that Tubbataha’s biodiversity concentration is 2.3 times more than that of the Hawaii reef.

They said not only the grounding but the salvaging and post salvage operations of the Guardian caused environmental damage even to nearby provinces such as Palawan, Antique, Aklan, Guimaras, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Zamboanga Del Norte, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi. With Agence France-Presse

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  • avmphil

    Sure it’s double standards. The US out-laid millions of US funds to local contractors to cleanup the “ accidental mess”. Prepared to fund further money for environmental studies and is in the process of working out a sensible compensation for the damages done.

    And here, the so called “environmental specialists” who are nothing but the “frontline foot soldiers” of the Communist Pigs in Beijing, holed up in Binondo and demanding additional monies, which rests at the discretion the Justice Department. Will these “piglets” scream and demand from the grounded Chinese “poaching” vessel such claims and call for indictment of their crimes done in a sovereign country? Otherwise these “piglets” are just a bunch of tin can rubbish guys.

  • BIGButo

    The government of the Philippines should tell all those leftist to go straight to heIl Why are they not saying anything about the communist Chinese that want to eat weird foods like anteaters and catch the fish from this precious reef. The reef is supposed to be for the fish to live in why are the Chinese fishing it the reef and these stupid anti government Bayan and other anti American communist traders not saying anything about there Chinese buddy’s. What a bunch of STUPID FOOLS they are.

  • AlexanderAmproz

    What would be fair is to charge the US with the same amount the Go family was charge for the capsizing of the “Princess of Cebu,” less the expenses of the 1000 fatalities and heavy pollutions done by the forbidden cargo of Endosulfan, a highly poisonous banned pesticide owned by Danding Cojuengco.

  • disqusted0fu

    The Americans should be thankful that they are considered as allies of the Aquino administration. If they were administration enemies, it would be a different story. That’s how it works in the Aquino administration, their allies get all the leniency but enemies face ultimate persecution.

    • AlexanderAmproz

      Your way to analyze is mix tofu at the best.

      In case the US weren’t allies they wouldn’t pay one single Peso.

      One Dynamite fishing blast is doing as much damages as what the US did,
      I let you guess who are the biggest seas criminals.

      Secret answer, to secret questions:

      How many times the Sulpicio lines went grounded or capsized with how many victims ?

      What kind of taxes, penalties, damages paid for such greed and abuses at the origins of most of the accident the Cebu Go family got ?

    • BIGButo

      The Americans are military alleys, They are not the ones thankful the Filipino people are the thankful ones for having the Americans there to help the AFP protect the country if need be. The Americans are not our enemy’s but very good friends.

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