Unesco sending marine experts to Tubbataha to assess damage



MANILA, Philippines — The Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is sending a team of experts to Tubbataha Reef to assess the damage wrought by the grounding of the USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper, in January.

This was confirmed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday by Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, director of the Unesco Dream Center in Manila and wife of Heherson Alvarez, head of the Climate Change Commission, an agency attached to the Office of the President.

Guidote-Alvarez said Unesco’s World Heritage Center was also organizing a “five-day meeting of marine experts aimed at strengthening conservation and management practices at Tubbataha Reef National Park.”

“The meeting will be held in Puerto Princesa City from May 20 to 24,” she said, quoting Dr. Hubert Gijzen, director of the Unesco Regional Science Board for Asia and the Pacific and Unesco representative to the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Timor Leste and Brunei.

Gijzen apparently responded to Heherzon Alvarez’s call for an “independent assessment” by Unesco of the damage caused by the Guardian after it got stuck on the reef for over two months.

Tubbataha Reef is located in the Sulu Sea 98 nautical miles southeast of Palawan.

Alvarez, a former senator, early this year said 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.”

Tubbataha Reef, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in December 1993, is home to hundreds of species of marine life and serves as a rest area for birds and turtles, among other animals.

The US Navy vessel, which was removed in late March, damaged more than 1,500 square meters of the reef, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.

The Tubbataha Management Office (TMO), which operates the marine park, said it would be involved in the damage assessment.

The US government has announced its commitment to rehabilitate the portion of the reef that was damaged by the Guardian, but has kept its discussions with the Department of Foreign Affairs confidential. It has not discussed the matter with the TMO.

The WHC in the French capital expressed serious concern over the Guardian’s grounding, calling it a “tragic incident.”

In a letter to Philippine Ambassador to France Cristina Ortega, WHC Director Kishore Rao said they were “very sorry to hear about the tragic incident.”

Shortly after the Guardian was cut up and removed from Tubbataha in pieces in late March, a Chinese fishing vessel got stranded in another portion of the reef in early April. That vessel, the Min Yong Lu, was floated after its illegal cargo of anteaters was removed. No mention of that stranding and the damage it caused was made by Unesco.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Crazy_horse101010

    good then they can go on to mactan island to check sub damage., after that they can go to the reefs that are blasted since they are in the neighborhood…

    • kanoy

      ANOTHER LIE EASILY CHALLENGED > sending a team of experts to Tubbataha Reef to assess the damage wrought by the grounding of the USS Guardian- USA WILL EASILY DEBUNK THAT LIE…

      THE TRUTH IS ON RECORD > sending a team of experts to Tubbataha Reef to assess the damage wrought by the grounding of the USS Guardian, (GREENPEACE) RAINBOW WARRIOR & A CHINESE FISHING SHIP

      The RAINBOW WARRIOR hit the same spot in 2005 and paid $70000 but 1 peso of that went to repair the damage,,,,then the USSN hit & dismantled a brand new ship that cost more than the entire RP treasury holds to limit the damage,,,,then it was assessed afterwards comes the China ship….again same spot BUT the RP DRAGGED THAT CHINA JUNK OFF CAUSING AN UNKNOWN AMOUNT OF DAMAGE
      Now the RP wants the USA to



      • manuelcdiaz

        The US will not pay any damage and the Philippines specially the environmental freaks can take a hike!

      • kanoy

        IMOHO the US made a more than generous ”out of court” settlement offer especially when compared to Greenpeace $7000 and China ZERO $

        the RP gov who complains China is a bully has made the mistake of trying to bully the USA so now they will get $0 for a very long time until a intl court decides

    • MC M

      They are probably afraid to go where dangerous and introduced marine species such as the Tarsulus Kiramis could nip their fins…

      • Crazy_horse101010

        true plus there have been tourists that were blown out of the water. . the last one a japanese diver.

  • Joe Kano

    PH “environmental activists” will welcome them with fried pangolin on a stick and hope for the worst so they can continue to attack the US with all kinds of crazy accusations and ridiculous rhetoric.

    • MC M

      I always wondered how seized endangered animal meat was handled by authorities after confiscation. Sinigang na pangolin anyone?

      • Joe Kano

        Sarap daw!

  • MC M

    UNESCO is hurting for around 74 million USD (per year) cut from their budget by the US withdrawing fees. That is around 22% of UNESCO’s total annual budget. This will be very interesting to see how UNESCO and others may (or hopefully) may not politicize this incident and if they will contradict the previous assessment made after an agreement has been reached between the parties of the accident.

    Meanwhile, the US congress / administration appears to be looking hard into ways to either amend the laws preventing payment or options to fund otherwise.As a matter of note: The US has paid in over 618M USD since 2004 as an “assessed” contribution and around 10M USD more in voluntary contributions to special programs.

    UNESCO could do a lot more good here than regurgitating an assessment that has already been completed. It would be unfortunate if UNESCO did not handle this in a classy and dignified manner as (currently) around 80% (as polled) of the US public supports reinstating payments as soon as possible.

    • kanoy

      Yes, in order for them to ”assess” anything they will first have to void the original agreement between the 2 parties, forged prior to the “GREEDIES” stepping in,
      explain on what grounds they are voiding it and then explain how they plan on assessing what damage was caused by which ship

      • MC M

        …and with all the others that were screaming about sovereignty earlier, what do the professionals that conducted the previous assessment think about UNESCO arriving late to second guess their work?

      • kanoy

        Yes work that was done prior to the Chinese hit damage coupled with the RP drag damage,,,the USA could have dragged the Guardian off rather than scrap her and now as it turns out they should have

  • BIGButo

    While they are they need to assess the damage the Chinese fishing ship stuck in the reef why do you always here about American ship on the reef but not the Chinese ship. Something looks and sounds fishey Filipinos. what is going on here?

  • jpastor

    Alvarez hails from the province of Isabela that used to be with thousand of fully grown narra trees and other species. He engaged himself to protecting environments of other places but neglect his own province. Isabela forests which is now denuded by politicals families led by the Dy’s. He should exert efforts to help his province too.

  • delpillar

    Did the Philippines or UNESCO planted those corals in Tubbataha Reefs, had spent millions for nurturing them for hundred years ?

    If the answer is no, hell no, you won’t receive payment.

    Apology and Spending a lot of money to dismantle the minesweeper to minimize further damage is what you will get.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks




latest videos