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Tubbataha agency breaks protocol, demands US payout

Camille Diola - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippine - In a move considered breaching diplomatic protocol, the Tubbataha management demanded $1.5-million compensation from the United States for wide swath of damage on the reef.

"The amount is probably little to them, but it means the world to us, to Tubbataha to maintain its protection," Tubbataha Management Office top executive Angeline Songco said in a radio interview on Tuesday.

Songco also denied reports that the agency has neglected the unsettled payment of the US following its Navy minesweeper USS Guardian's grounding on the protective marine reserve in January 2013.

She said the agency communicated with the US Embassy through a letter sent last April seeking the payout as 2,000 square meters of corals were destroyed in the incident.

"(The US Embassy knows) that we wrote to them early, and they replied to us two times, acknowledging the receipt of our letter," Songco said.

The US government's response noted the request and expressed its willingness to pay. Songco said, however, that the US told them to follow a new process to claim the said amount.

"This is really unfair. The USS Guardian caused the damage, however, it is the Philippines and Tubbataha that have to beg to be paid," she added.

Songco also maintained that the Department of Foreign Affairs was privy of the letter as they were furnished with copies.

"They told us that what we did was out of protocol, but being superintendent of the marine park does not know international diplomacy course," Songco explained.

"Nonetheless, we acknowledged our mistake, and we furnished them copies that they acknowledged also. Meaning they know, but they’re just storytelling on this," she added.

Songco said that funds and savings donated by patrons for the maintenance of the treasured reef had run out for rehabilitation needs of the park.

"The funds that we’ve saved from years back, those we kept for rainy days and for the next few years, are now already on their end. And we are getting anxious and nervous," she confessed.

Part of the savings, she said, also went to complete assessment of the damage from Chinese vessel F/V Min Long Yu that ran aground in the reef three months after the USS Guardian incident.

The USS Guardian was dismantled and removed from the reef last March through a monumental salvage operation that took 10 weeks to complete.

The US Navy had said that the ship got stuck in the area due to errors in navigation.

vuukle comment

ANGELINE SONGCO

DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

GUARDIAN

PHILIPPINES AND TUBBATAHA

REEF

SONGCO

TUBBATAHA

TUBBATAHA MANAGEMENT OFFICE

UNITED STATES

V MIN LONG YU

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