Gov't probing on stuck US Navy ship on Tubbataha Reefs-A A +A
Saturday, January 19, 2013
THE Philippine government will observe the law protecting the Tubbataha Reefs after a US Navy minesweeper apparently damaged the area after running aground Thursday, Malacanang said Saturday.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview over government-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan that concerned agencies have been conducting an investigation on the incident.
"There are laws that we have to implement... and it is a World Heritage site, we'll see what the investigation of concerned agencies will yield, what will be their recommendations and then, we move forward with the guidance of what the law provides," she said when asked how the Philippine government would respond to the situation.
A legislator wants the US government to explain Thursday's incident and to know why the US Navy ship was inside the Philippine jurisdiction.
Valte said concerned agencies will be conducting its own investigation on how the USS Guardian ended up along the Tubbataha Reefs.
"We have to find out first the circumstances. As I mentioned yesterday, the primary concern is extricating the ship out of the reef with minimal damage. We cannot see yet the extent of the damage until (the ship) is removed there and our divers checked (the reefs)," she said.
Reports said around 10 meters of corals were damage by the minesweeper but Valte said it was just an estimate and no one can figure out the extent of the damage until divers are dispatched to assess the situation.
Local authorities said the government imposes a fine of about $300 per square meter of damaged coral. A similar incident happened in 2005 when a Greenpeace flagship struck a reef. The environment group paid almost $7,000 for the damage.
Most of the US sailors left the USS Guardian for safety reasons after initial efforts to free the vessel failed, the US Navy's 7th Fleet said in a statement on Friday.
A small team of US Navy officers would remain on board to try to extricate the USS Guardian with as little damage to environment as possible, the statement noted.
The 68-meter long minesweeper ran aground Thursday while in transit through the marine park. Philippine authorities said there were no injuries or oil leaks, adding they are trying to evaluate the damage to the protected coral reefs.
The Tubbataha Reefs, designated by Unesco as a World Heritage Site in 1992, provides an important habitat for internationally threatened and endangered marine species.
The reefs support many species of corals, cetaceans, sharks, and fishes. (SDR/Sunnex)