Agencies told to explain presence of stuck US Navy ship-A A +A
Sunday, January 20, 2013
A SENATOR asked the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFACOM) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to explain how the US Navy ship ended up along the Tubbataha Reef, which reportedly sustained damage after the minesweeper recently ran aground there.
The government is set to conduct a probe on the incident as Senator Loren Legarda expressed concern over what she said was a “troubling pattern of environmental assault” that has resulted from the visits by United States naval ships in the country.
Last Thursday, the USS Guardian grazed parts of the world-famous reef and eventually got stuck some 80 miles off Palawan. Some reports indicate that at least 10 linear meters of the reef, home to some endangered marine species, may have been damaged.
Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, noted the failure by the US authorities to coordinate the movements and route of the USS Guardian while in Philippine waters.
Ships are not allowed to go near the area since it is a protected site, according to Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs National Park Act of 2009.
“What kind of coordination was carried out when officials on board the USS Guardian refused to respond to the radio calls made by Philippine authorities who were investigating their presence in our protected area?” Legarda asked.
The Tubbataha management office earlier said the 68-meter ship entered these areas without permission and failed to coordinate with environmental officials.
The incident came three months after a US navy contractor, Glenn Marine Defense Asia Philippines, was found to have dumped hundreds of thousands of liters of sewage waste collected from visiting US ships off Zambales.
Legarda conducted an investigation on the matter and is expected to release the report.
“While we obviously need to make the US accountable for the destruction they caused, more importantly, we need to look beyond the ‘pesos and cents’ and see how instruments such as the VFA can truly serve our national interest,” the senator said. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)