Palace sees probe of grounded US ship in Tubbataha
MANILA - The Palace said the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense are coordinating with the US Embassy "to make sure" that the US Navy ship that hit a coral reef in Tubbataha is "extricated at the soonest possible time to avoid further injury to one of our national treasures."
"We imagine that the other agencies will be launching their own investigations on how and why the ship ended up running aground. For now, our concern is to make sure that there is minimal damage," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
The Palace declined to comment for now when asked if the Philippine government will ask for compensation from the US for the damage that the incident may have caused the reef.
"We will see. We do not want to make any speculations yet at this point. We will want to proceed where everything has been thoroughly established before we make any comment on this matter," Valte said.
The USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper, ran aground in the Sulu Sea off the Philippines on Thursday, and was stuck on a reef.
No one was injured in the incident, which occurred at 2:25 a.m. local time on Tubbataha Reef about 80 miles (130 km) east-southeast of Palawan Island, in the Philippines, the Philippine Navy said. There were no reports that any fuel leaked from the vessel.
The ship, with a crew of 80, had just completed a port call at Subic Bay in the Philippines, when the grounding occurred.
"The crew is currently working to determine the best method of safely extracting the ship," a Navy statement said, adding that the cause of the grounding was under investigation.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed the incident at the reef, which is a world heritage site.
The incident drew flak from a lawmaker and leftist activists.
"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," Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino said in a press statement Thursdau.
He quoted the the Tubbataha management office as allegedly saying that the US Navy ship damaged large portions of the heritage site's coral reefs, thus violating pertinent Philippine laws, including Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs National Park Act of 2009.
He said the US Navy may be fined approximately P12,000 per square meter of damaged corals.