MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) The management of Tubbataha Reef Natural Park announced on Tuesday, January 22, that it will ask the US Navy to immediately pay for the damage caused by a minesweeper stranded inside the protected area since last week.
“This is an unfortunate incident. No one wanted this to happen. But, damage has been done [and] we are duty-bound to enforce the law,” the management board said after meeting meeting at its office in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
In a statement, the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) explained that once the vessel is pulled out of the reef and damage is assessed, it will serve the US Navy a formal notice of violations committed according to Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs National Park (TRNP) Act of 2009.
THe TPAMB added that it will serve “the US Navy with a formal notice listing violations of the above law in the grounding incident of January 17 involving the USS Guardian.”
“We will ask them to take responsibility, and immediately pay the fines that can be estimated at this time,” the statement added.
Immediate, future penalties
The TPAMB detailed that the US Navy will be formally charged with 3 violations “evident at this time” of the following sections subject to penalties of the TRNP Act:
|19||Unauthorized Entry||Imprisonment of not less than 6 months but not more than 1 year and a fine of P100,000-300,000|
|21||Non-payment of conservation fee||In addition to the payment of the conservation fee, pay the administrative fine of double the amount of the conservation fee set by the TPAMB for the activity undertaken|
|30||Obstruction of law enforcement officer||P50,000 administrative fine and cancellation of registration, permit and license of vessel and its officers|
Once the damage is assessed, the US Navy will be subject to further fines for another two violations:
|20||Damages to the reef||The TRNP Act says that “damages to the reef shall subject the responsible person or entity to the payment of administrative fines set by the TPAMB based on current valuation standards and to the payment of the cost of restoration”|
|26g||Destroying resources||Imprisonment of 3 to 6 years, P100,000-300,000 fine, forfeiture of equipment, gear and vessel that made it possible for the offender to commit the offense, P300,000-1,000,000 fine administrative fine and confiscation of equipment, gear and vessel|
The TPAMB said that a second notice of violation will be sent to the US Navy “that will quantify the estimate of destruction and the fines that must be paid.”
No jail time
Board member Jose Lorenzo Tan, World Wildlife Fund Philippines CEO, told AFP that although the law prescribes jail penalties for some of the violations, the board had agreed to not seek prison terms.
“We initially decided to fine them,” said Tan.
The US embassy declined AFP comment on the alleged violations.
Tubbataha is off-limits to navigation except for research or tourism approved by marine park superintendent Angelique Songco.