Green group: Our sovereignty and dignity is priceless

ENVIRONMENTAL activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said that the proposed P24 million fine for the Tubbataha reef damage caused by US military forces is too little and too limited an amount, belittling the value of the area’s rich marine wealth and the issue of territorial sovereignty.

“Twenty four million pesos is not enough to compensate for the damage done by the US to Tubbataha Reef, a national treasure. There is really no equivalent monetary compensation for the US Navy’s disrespect for Philippine authorities and their trampling of the country’s sovereignty,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

The Tubbataha Park Management was earlier reported to have asked the US Navy to pay 24 million pesos to compensate and rehabilitate an estimated 1,000 square meters of coral reefs destroyed in Tubbataha Reef National Park.

Bautista said that the issue of damage to the area’s coral reef ecosystem should not be limited to the amount of fines and damages to be paid.

“Both the US and the Philippine governments want to reduce the Tubbataha incident to only an environmental violation that can be settled through mere monetary compensation. The proposal does not consider the longer-term losses to the marine environment nor the lingering presence of US military troops in Philippine lands and seas,” Bautista said.

Bautista also expressed disappointment at the Aquino administration’s failure to curb the increasing presence of US military troops in the country as well as the different environmental and social problems this has triggered. “Until now, the Aquino government has failed to seek accountability from the violations of the US Navy,” Bautista added.

Based on the report of government authorities, the officers and crew of the USS Guardian trespassed into the marine park earlier this week, damaged the coral reef, disturbed the local marine resources, and prevented park authorities from immediately investigating the incident. It was also reported that the USS Guardian personnel in full battle gear took an offensive stance when the park rangers tried to approach the grounded ship.

“The Aquino administration must assert our sovereignty and stand for dignity as a nation by filing a formal protest to the US government and pursue a criminal case against the officers and crew of the USS Guardian. We should take custody of American intruders like what we did before to Chinese poachers and local fishermen who trespassed into the water of Tubbataha,” Bautista ended.

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