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P-Noy urged to demand payment from Chinese ship

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Two administration senatorial candidates yesterday asked President Aquino to demand payment from the Chinese government for the damage brought by a Chinese fishing vessel that got stranded in Tubbataha Reef last month.

President Aquino’s first cousin, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino and former senator Jamby Madrigal noted the damage to the reef caused by F/B Min Long Yu turned out to be bigger than that of USS Guardian, the US Navy minesweeper that got stuck in Tubbataha earlier.

“We should definitely seek fair compensation for damage caused to the Tubbataha Reef, one of our UNESCO world heritage sites,” Aquino said.

“Compensation must also account not only for the actual damage caused but also for the fact that the Tubbataha Reef is at the center of marine biodiversity, and is valuable not only to the Philippines, but for everyone on the planet,” he added.

Madrigal, for her part, suggested a uniform penalty standard be imposed on the Chinese government.

She said the USS Guardian paid a huge amount for the damage it caused and so should the Chinese fishing vessel.

“For me, these Chinese fishermen should be jailed first because they broke the law, to teach them a lesson. We should also confiscate the vessel so that it will not happen again, because they are stealing from our precious reef, rich corals,” Madrigal said.

Aquino and Madrigal issued the call following reports that damage caused by a Chinese fishing vessel last April 8 surpassed that of the Guardian.

The US ship damaged at least 2,000 square meters of corals, while the Chinese fishing boat destroyed almost double that.

The US was asked to pay $1.4 million for the damage the grounding of the USS Guardian caused to the protected marine park in the Sulu Sea based on Republic Act 10067.

It was learned that some 3,902 square meters of corals were destroyed after the Chinese boat ran aground in Tubbataha.

Angelique Songco of the Tubbataha Management Office described the damage to the corals as “heart-breaking” after experts assessed the area and some of the corals destroyed were 500 years old.

Tubbataha marine park information officer Glenda Simon said the Chinese would likely be made to pay P95 million ($2.32 million) in fine for trespassing into the marine park and destroying the corals.

Madrigal earlier called for tighter security measures around Tubbataha Reef.

“This latest incident shows how vulnerable our marine resources are to man-made mishaps. We need to find better ways of protecting our precious reefs. It’s obvious what the Chinese were doing there – they’re fishing in restricted waters,” she said.

Madrigal, who is seeking re-election and is now running under the Team PNoy administration coalition of President Aquino, said the Philippine Navy should exert serious efforts in protecting the world-renowned reef.

“Naval authorities should exert serious efforts in guarding restricted zones, apprehending intruders and imposing stiff penalties – including possible jail time – against offenders,” she said.

Madrigal was principal author of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009.

Earlier, she described as “loose change” the US$1.4-million that the Philippine government will charge the US for the recent grounding of Guardian in Tubbataha reef.

“We have yet to fully assess the damage caused by USS Guardian and here we are again. It’s a wake-up call for authorities to save Tubbataha from further intrusions,” she said.

ANGELIQUE SONGCO OF THE TUBBATAHA MANAGEMENT OFFICE

AQUINO

AQUINO AND MADRIGAL

B MIN LONG YU

CHINESE

DAMAGE

PRESIDENT AQUINO

REEF

TUBBATAHA

TUBBATAHA REEF

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