New quandary in Tubbataha: Who will pay for towing?

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06:00 PM April 20th, 2013

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By: Redempto D. Anda, April 20th, 2013 06:00 PM

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Government agencies are now asking each other who is going to pay the Subic-based towing firm that was tapped by the government to pull out the Chinese ship Min Long Yu from Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), which contracted the Malayan towing firm that was also involved in the salvaging operations for the US minesweeper Guardian, had asked the Tubbataha Management Office who will foot the bill.

“The PCG asked us the same question. The Chinese should be the ones to pay,” said Angelique Songco, supervisor of the Tubbataha marine park.

She said marine park officials are meeting with the PCG to discuss the payment for the salvaging.

It was unclear how much the towing company had billed the government for the operation.

Officials indicated they have not discussed the issue with either the Chinese Embassy or the detained Chinese nationals.

The PCG in Manila has announced that the Chinese ship was finally removed from the reef on Friday at past 2 p.m. According to the plan, the vessel would be towed to Puerto Princesa for custody of the PCG.

The 12 suspected Chinese poachers entered a plea of not guilty during their arraignment on Friday for violation of the Tubbataha protected area lawn when their vessel entered the area and got stuck there.

During investigation, the suspects earlier claimed they got lost on the way to China from Indonesia.

The Chinese are facing charges of poaching, illegal entry and attempted bribery of public officials, the latter charge a result of their reported attempt to bribe the park’s rangers.

Judge Jocelyn Dilig, of the Regional Trial Court Branch 51, set a hearing on May 22.

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