Green group slams US troops for damaging Tubbataha Reef

KALIKASAN PNE strongly denounced the US military forces for trespassing on Philippine waters and destroying environmentally-vulnerable areas in the Tubbataha Reef National Park.

“This incident shows us how the United States military forces have brazenly disrespected our laws and damaged our country’s environment and national treasures,” said Clemente Bautista, coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan PNE (Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment).

A US Navy minesweeper ran aground in Tubbataha Reefs National Park earlier today, January 17, damaging marine-resource rich areas, according to the report of Tubbataha Park Management Officer Angelique Songco.

The US Pacific Fleet has confirmed that their ship USS Guardian, an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship, ran aground at 2.25 am, 98 nautical miles from Puerto Princesa City. The area is part of a protected national park and is classified as a world heritage site for the richness of its marine biodiversity. The report revealed that the US ship entered these areas without permission and failed to coordinate with environmental officials.

“We denounce how the US military forces responsible for the damage have barred our environmental officials from inspecting the USS Guardian to immediately assess the incident. They are the intruders and violators, yet they still have the gall to disrespect Filipino officials and bar them from doing their environmental duties. This is the height of US military arrogance and brazenness,” Bautista said.

“What is the US military doing in Tubbataha Reef and its environs? What other environmentally-critical areas has the US military presence damaged or destroyed?” Bautista asked.

“This incident again underscores the problem with the current Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allows the US military to move around unhampered in Philippines territory and destroy our natural resources with impunity,” stressed Bautista.

US Navy ships regularly participate in joint military exercises within the country under the bilateral military agreement VFA.

“This is just one of the recent environmental crimes that the US military should be held accountable for. Last October 2012, Glenn Defense Marine Philippines Inc., a US Navy contractor, was proven to have dumped human and toxic waste into Subic Bay,” Bautista noted.

“In almost 15 years of implementation of VFA, US military forces have routinely infringed on our sovereignty, violated the right of our people, and destroyed the environment. It is most urgent for the government to review and junk this unjust, onerous agreement. THe VFA clearly only serves the interests of US military forces and will never be advantageous our country,” Bautista said.

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