Militant groups puzzled why DoJ is silent on Tubbataha disaster

GROUPS on Tuesday said they are puzzled why the Department of Justice (DoJ) is silent on the Tubbataha Reef environmental disaster caused by USS Guardian, which ran aground on January 17 and has yet to be lifted up since then.

The fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has yet to take an official position on the Tubbataha Reef environmental disaster since the US Navy minesweeper took its toll on the UNESCO declared heritage site that connects that the ocean waters of Sulu and Palawan provinces.

“We are expecting the DoJ Secretary to issue legal opinion as to the criminal liabilities of the US government like flagrant violations of the 1987 Constitution on the sovereign rights of the people, environmental havoc and other concerns pertaining to national patrimony and social justice. We hope Secretary de Lima will rise above the occasion and pursue the legitimate concerns of the Filipino public along the lines of national sovereignty, environmental and social justice,,” said Fernando Hicap, vice chairperson of Anakpawis party list and incumbent chair of Pamalakaya.

The fisherfolk leader said DoJ should prepare the charge sheet against those involved in the environmental mishap and blockbuster desecration of Philippine sovereignty, and should entertain the proposal to file a class suit against the US government before an international body that address this kind of incident. “We wonder why Secretary de Lima is very silent on the Tubbataha environmental scandal that is interconnected to issues of sovereignty, social justice and patrimony. The DoJ chief must express her own legal opinion on the matter because it is just, moral, politically correct and constitutionally appropriate.

Hicap told Secretary de Lima that Anakpawis party list and Pamalakaya do not conform with the administrative fines imposed on the US government referring to the P 100,000 to P 300,000 for the American minesweeper’s illegal entry to the natural reef park.

The Pamalakaya official suggested that instead of P 100, 000 to P 300,000 fine, the government can impose at least P 1 billion for illegal entry given the extent of damage caused by the US navy mine ship. Hicap also said the government through the DoJ can impose higher penalties and claims for damage compensation.

Tomorrow, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list will stage a swim protest near the US embassy in Manila in connection with the Tubbataha Reef incident. The groups will highlight the demand for US President Barack Obama to issue a public apology before the Filipino people and the international community regarding the incident.

Aside from public apology, the groups will also echo calls for the urgent and unconditional pull out of all US troops, warships and aircrafts in the Philippines, and the decisive abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement 9VFA0 and the the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States to prevent future disasters like that of Tubbataha incident.

The groups will also ask the US government to set aside at least P 10- B for future claims of Filipino fishermen who will be affected by the immediate and long-term impact of the Tubbataha Reef environmental fiasco.

The groups asserted that tens of thousands of small fishermen and fishworkers in Sulu Sea, Palawan, Visayan Sea, Romblon, Mindoro and Panay Island will be affected by the destruction of Tubbataha Reef, which serves as spawning grounds for more than 1,000 fish species which are abundant in these fishing waters.

On Monday, Pamalakaya wrote a letter of protest to US President Obama, denouncing the extreme political arrogance displayed by the US military officials and US Embassy officials in Manila.

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