Delay in Tubbataha compensation request hit
Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - June 20, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Environmentalists denounced the government after the Department of Foreign Affairs delayed the request for compensation from the United States for the damage done to Tubbataha Reef when the US Navy’s USS Guardian ran aground in the area in 2013.

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) said the DFA’s action could be a scheme to allow the US government to avoid accountability.

“One and a half years have passed before the government forwarded its compensation request to the US. Apart from the very little compensation our government is demanding as a result of the destruction caused to the Tubbataha Reef, our officials did not really exert effort to hold the US government and US Navy responsible for the grounding incident,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

The USS Guardian ran aground at the reef on Jan. 17, 3013 and the vessel was stuck in the marine park for 10 weeks until salvage teams removed the naval vessel.

The minesweeper damaged around 2,345.67 square meters of the reef, according to Tubbataha Reefs Park superintendent Angelique Songco.

The estimated 10,000-hectare reef is home to some 600 species of fish, 360 species of corals, 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphins and whales, 100 species of birds and it also serves as nesting place for hawksbill and green sea turtles.

Last June 13, the US government received a compensation request from the Philippine government concerning the damage done by the USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef.

Kalikasan PNE is one of the petitioners that filed a Writ of Kalikasan in the Supreme Court to demand financial compensation, environmental rehabilitation and judicial prosecution of the errant ship personnel.

“The delayed compensation request only talks about the cost of destruction brought about by the US military’s trespassing into one of our most important marine protected areas.

Until now, there is no action from the Aquino administration to file legal charges and get jurisdiction over the US Navy officers and personnel involved in the incident.

The Aquino government is reducing the issue of the grounding in Tubbataha as mere financial compensation issue, disregarding the clear violations of Philippine sovereignty,” Bautista stressed.

Based on the Philippine government’s assessment, the cost of damage of the USS Guardian grounding is only $1.3 million.

But the Writ of Kalikasan petition filed by environmental and militant groups pegs the total cost, including rehabilitation needs, at $16 million to $27 million.

“The US is very vocal that they would only settle the issue on the Tubbataha incident through negotiation with the executive branch of the government.

This is a deliberate effort to dodge criminal culpability under Philippine jurisdiction for their military forces involved in criminal or civil violations in the country,” added Bautista.

ANGELIQUE SONGCO AQUINO BAUTISTA BUT THE WRIT OF KALIKASAN CLEMENTE BAUTISTA COMPENSATION DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS GOVERNMENT KALIKASAN TUBBATAHA REEF
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