US minesweeper crash in Tubbataha appals youth solon

THE continued presence of US troops in the Philippines has attacked our sovereignty in all terrains – land, air, and now our territorial waters. The incident in Tubbataha is simply unforgivable.”

Thus exclaimed Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino upon learning of the incident involving a US Navy minesweeper that crashed near Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, resulting to massive coral damage.

Reports from the Tubbataha management office and the US Pacific Fleet revealed that at around 3 a.m. today, the US Navy’s USS Guardian – an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship – got stuck near Tubbataha, around 80 nautical miles east-southeast of Palawan.

Officials say that the US ship, which came from a routine port call in Subic, Zambales earlier this week, got stuck in the coral reefs of Tubbataha apparently due to “misnavigation.”

“First, we accidentally discovered the Aquino-backed US game of drones in the country. Now, US ships come barging on our conservation parks. These incidents are clearly lambasting our sovereignty. Yet, we never heard any apology from the US government nor is the Aquino administration condemning any of these incidents,” Palatino said.

According to the Tubbataha management office, it is highly probable that the ship damaged large portions of the heritage sites’ coral reefs, thus violating pertinent Philippine laws, including Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs National Park Act of 2009.

The US Navy may also be fined approximately P12,000 per square meter of damaged corals.

It is not yet clear, however, if the incident resulted to an oil leak or any other waste spill.

“While we are hoping that there would be no oil or toxic waste spill this time around, the youth condemns the recklessness of the US military that has resulted to this incident,” Palatino said.

“This case just highlights how the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty between our country and the US is opening loopholes that enable the said imperialist country to conduct covert military operations on our territory, without any regard whatsoever on its effects to our people and our natural resources. It is appalling, really appalling,” Palatino added.

The youth solon is set to file a resolution asking Congress to probe on the said incident.

“We will not let this pass unnoticed. It is time for us to vehemently oppose the US military’s damaging activities. No more minesweeping, no more game of drones,” Palatino said.

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