Latest Stories

Environment officials assess damage to coral reefs

By ,

Environment officials on Friday began assessing the damage to the coral reefs in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park after they were grazed by a US Navy minesweeper last Thursday, saying the US government may be liable to pay fines of up to P1 million.

The USS Guardian must be extricated immediately from the coral reef to prevent further damage to the World Heritage Site and treasured dive spot, said Angelique Songco, the park superintendent.

“They have to get that ship out because we’re worried that the longer it’s there, the more the damage will spread,” she said.

The ship remained stuck in the reef yesterday because of bad weather, Songco said in a phone interview.

Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau director Mundita Lim said her office, in coordination with the Tubbataha Management Office headed by Songco, was now trying to determine how much damage was sustained by the reef.

This process would be made easier by the fact that the government has baseline information on the Tubbataha Reefs, meaning “we would know which corals were damaged before and after the accident took place.”

Songco said the US government would be fined P25,000 for each square meter of damaged coral, among other penalties.

“Other transgressors like Greenpeace paid that fine so we will impose the same penalty in fairness to them,” she said.

In 2005, a Greenpeace ship ran aground a reef in the Tubbataha and the environmental group was forced to pay almost P400,000 to the park management.

Songco lamented that the fine was still “too small” considering there was no way to accurately put a value to the environmental damage caused by such accidents.


Unauthorized entry

She said the US government would also face administrative fines of from P100,000 to P300,000 for its unauthorized entry into a protected area, in violation of Republic Act 10067, or the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009.

She said other local authorities were also not informed of the ship’s entry.

On top of that, she said the US government may be asked to pay between P300,000 and P1 million in “reparations” to the Philippine government for lost income from the impact of the accident on fish density.

“We will vote on this in the council,” she said.

“The Americans would laugh at us if we actually only asked for $300 (P25,000) per square meter,” Songco said.

“I don’t think they will try to escape their responsibility,” Lim said.

Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, chief executive officer and vice chair of World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines, earlier said an aerial survey of the accident site by the Philippine Air Force showed that the ship, with a width of 11.88 meters, may have rammed through at least 10 meters of coral.

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park lies at the center of the Sulu Sea. It protects almost 100,000 hectares of high-quality marine habitats containing three atolls and a large area of deep sea.

On Thursday, the 68-meter USS Guardian grazed the reef before dawn and got stuck some 128 kilometers off Palawan as it sailed off to its next port call, the US 7th Fleet said.


Rescue teams

The Philippine Coast Guard yesterday ordered the deployment of its marine environmental protection vessel to check for possible oil spill and damage to the coral reefs.

PCG Commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena ordered the dispatch of the BRP Corregidor with rescue and marine environmental protection personnel on board to give assistance, if necessary, to the officers and crew of the USS Guardian.

Isorena said that aside from the two rescue teams from the Coast Guard Special Operations Group (CGSOG) and two other teams from the Marine Environmental Protection Command (Mepcom), a medical team was also dispatched to help the ship’s crew members.

He said the Mepcom team also brought equipment such as oil spill boom, skimmer and oil dispersant chemicals to prevent any oil spill incidents.

Upon learning of the accident, a joint team from the PCG, the Tubbataha Management Office, and the Philippine Navy conducted seaborne patrol operations. The Coast Guard Detachment in Tubbataha later established radio contact to inform the US Navy ship of its violations of RA 10067, the PCG said.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Coral reefs , environment , Greenpeace , peace , Tubbataha Reefs , Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  2. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  3. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  4. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  5. Massive infra spending set
  6. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  7. South Korea president shouted down by distraught parents
  8. Passengers denied chance to escape sinking South Korea ferry
  9. Lacson’s wife loses diamond earring to thieves but recovers jewelry quickly with police arrest
  10. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  4. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  5. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  6. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  7. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  8. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  9. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  10. Palace: We can’t blame increase in population on Vitangcol
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  5. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  6. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  7. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  8. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  9. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  10. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct


  • 4.9 quake jolts Batanes on Maundy Thursday
  • Presidents, celebrities mourn writer Garcia Marquez
  • MH370 search to be most costly ever at $100 million — analysts
  • Iraqi guilty of beating wife to death in US
  • Avalanche sweeps Everest; 6 killed, 9 missing
  • Sports

  • Heat seek Three-peat but Spurs, Pacers top seeds
  • Can Spurs get back at Heat? Can they survive West?
  • Hopkins, 49, seeks win for the ageless
  • LeBron still No. 1 with NBA’s most popular jersey
  • Pacquiao back in PH, heads home to wife, kids
  • Lifestyle

  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Entertainment

  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Cannes film festival launches race for 2014 Palme d’Or
  • Business

  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • Technology

  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks
  • A ‘time-travel’ production of ‘Les Miserable’ at Stanford
  • Filipina Maryknoll sister honored for years of service
  • Malaysia quarantines 64 villagers over MERS virus
  • Marketplace