Group fears possible cover up in gov’t-led probe on Tubbataha disaster

A militant urban poor group said that a cover up in the probe on one of the most controversial marine disasters in the Philippines’ recent history is very likely to happen as the United States Navy refuses local Tubbataha authorities to intervene in the effort to salvage USS Guardian that remains stranded in the Sulu Sea, considering the strong influence of the US government on the Philippine politics.

Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said this after Malacanang said it would keep its silence without the result of an investigation to be done by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of National Defense (DND) and other concerned government agencies.

On Thursday dawn, the 1,300-ton US Navy Minesweeper ran aground the northern parts of the Tubbataha Reef off the coast of the the island of Palawan in the Sulu Sea.

As of press time, US divers were still unable to free the US ship due to bad weather condition, as the foreign troop refuses to take assistance from the Philippine government in mitigating the effects of the said incident to the precious ecology of the Tubbataha Reef which is among the 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines.

The militant group will join other groups under Bagong Alayansang Makabayan (Bayan) in a protest action this morning outside the US Embassy in Manila as a response to recent reports that foreign troops aboard the USS Guardian have charged their armaments at our local authorities.

According to Gloria Arellano, Kadamay national chair, “By this time, these US foreign troops should have well-realized what territory they are in, after losing directions with faulty navigation map which might have brought forth the disaster. Unless they are claiming that the Sulu Sea is within the US map of territories, they should at least show some courtesy to our local authorities and law enforcers.

Arellano also said that the Filipino people should express their overwhelming disgust both at the barbaric behavior of the US troops who know no boundary and territory and at the deafening silence of the Aquino administration with regards to the development of events in the Tubbataha disaster.

“Malacanang’s preferred silence only leads us to believe of a highly possible cover up in the investigation, and considering the overwhelming puppetry and subservience of the Aquino administration to the US government, and the latter’s deeply-entrenched influence on the Philippine politics,” Arellano added.

Aside from being a heritage site, Tubbataha reef serves as a breeding ground of marine lives which are source of food and livelihood for Filipinos along the coasts surrounding the Sulu Sea.

According to Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board, the US government should be fined with $300 or more than P12,000 per square meter of the damaged reef.

Fine, not enough!

However, Kadamay said that no amount of fine can compensate for the damages due to the Filipino people by years of US military intervention and entry of their naval troops to the Philippine seas.

“Since the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and the Philippines in 1951 which then permitted the presence of US military base in Subic, until today by virtue of the Visiting Forces Agreement, US troops have not only damage our delicate natural resources.

“Counts of murder as well as rape cases were committed by Philippine-based US troops, not counting the fact that presence of foreign troops in the Philippine soil and seas is raping our sovereignty,” Arellano added.

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