It has been two days since the USS Guardian, an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship, ran aground Tubbataha Reef, 98 nautical miles off Puerto Princesa City but until today, the ship is yet to be extricated.
This is very personal to me as aside from being a Palawenyo myself, I’ve been involved in many activities for the protection of the Tubbataha Reef when I was still in Palawan a few years back, and still involve myself from time to time even though I am out of the province.
Tubbataha Reef is one priceless jewel of the province as it plays home to numerous endangered marine species. The 97,030-hectare Marine Protected Area, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) lies at the heart of the Coral Triangle and plays a major role in the preservation of world’s marine biodiversity.
The Coral Triangle is the global center of marine biodiversity which serves as home to 40 percent of the world’s fish and 75 percent of corals.
The ship has caused severe damage to the area as it turned 90 degrees today due to strong waves. And should it be not extricated ASAP, it will definitely cause more damage to the supposedly no-permit-no-entry ‘protected area.’
Tubbataha management office head Angelique Songco said the ship “entered without a permit,” which is a clear violation of section 19 of Republic Act 10067 or the TRNP Act of 2009.
I can picture Miss Angelique teary-eyed, if not weeping, for the damage the ship has caused to her baby Tubbataha. As in various press conferences I have attended in late 2000’s, she’s always teary-eyed implementing the laws governing Tubbataha especially when intruders involve small-time fishermen who fish in the protected area. As much as she wanted to be a human who understands the need for food of these people, she needs to use her iron fist in order to protect and preserve the wonders of Tubbataha for the future generation and for the common good.
In October 2005, a ship of the environment group Greenpeace also ran aground in the area allegedly due to inaccurate maritime chart, the same reason as the US Guardian. Greenpeace paid damages to the corals. The US government should also pay for the damage. But as I mentioned, the corals are ‘priceless’ for they don’t grow easily.
This is very serious.
We don’t expect a US warship, that should be armed by high-tech equipment and facilities, to run aground the reefs. If there are people who better understand, and would never violate international laws, especially that involves the Philippines, they should be Americans who have close ties with the Filipinos and the Philippine Government. But we were wrong. Thus, further investigation is really needed.
This issue is very personal to me as it is personal for every Palawenyo. And this should be very personal to every Filipino, especially to our lawmakers and political officials who should do everything to save the area from further damage.
While we campaign for it in the social networking sites, we should also demand President Benigno Aquino III to take a stand on this matter. Because as of this posting, the president has not released any statement regarding the issue yet.
Our call is urgent! Save Tubbataha Reef and extricate USS Guardian ASAP or lose our corals that take forever to form.
Photo credits: BestTourism.Com/Philstar.Com/AFPWescom