I don't wanna take side between the US Navy and the independent World Wide Fund (WWF)'s issue for the recent incident of US minesweeper warship stranded at the world's most protected and most important reef, the Tubbataha reef of the Sulu Sea.
Well, you may ask where is Tubbataha reef? The Tubbataha National Marine Park is located at the Central Sulu Sea, is a marine sanctuary containing a reef of enormous size. It was established on August 11, 1988 with an area of 332 km² (82,000 acres). A 98 nautical miles (181 km) southeast of Puerto Princesa City in the Palawan Province. The reef is made up of two coral atolls divided by an eight-kilometer (5 miles) wide channel. The South Atoll, the smaller of the two is five kilometers in length and three kilometers in width; while the North Atoll, the larger of the two is 16 kilometers (9.9 mi) long and five kilometers (3 miles) wide.(Knipp 22) Each reef has a single small islet that protrudes from the water. The atolls are separated by a deep channel 8 km (5.0 mi) wide. It is also nominated at the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
A Chinese origin Jose Ma. Lorenzo TAN, WWF-Philippines vice chairman and chief executive officer in the Philippines criticized the US Navy for diverting their trip to the Tubbataha marine park instead of going directly to Puerto Princesa.
Me, as a keen political issues observer and follower with an in-depth knowledge about environment issues, I am a bit concern of the 10 meter destruction of the corrals in the Tubbataha reef for the US Navy Mine sweeper incident because it takes hundred years to replace them but I am very much concerned of Jose Ma. Lorenzo TAN's presence in the Philippines as he seems to be a defector and a communist china spy in the country.
What makes me worried of Jose Ma. Lorenzo TAN? Because this man is so quiet and never criticized the china's activity in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea). Australian environmentalist are already voicing their concern of the effect of the heavy traffic at sea in the West Philippine sea that could have an adverse effect to the environment which could harshly affect the ocean waters living organisms, corrals and environment in the Philippines particularly in Palawan and the corrals adjacent to it which we could count the Tubbataha reef.
Why this Jose Ma. Lorenzo TAN is also so quiet for the continuous poaching of Chinese fishermen catching endangered species of green turtles in the West Philippines Sea and in Scarborough Shoal? I did not hear any comment from this Chinese Jose Ma. Lorenzo TAN criticizing china.
I could have the rights to question the US Navy for going there but I could not criticize them because it is part of their mission is to clear the waters in the Philippines for possible mines planted by any pirates, terrorist or even the communist china subs which we don't know if they are entering the country because we don't have radars to monitor our waters. This US Navy mine sweepers also need to explore the water in the Philippines and be familiarize all the features so they would be ready how to defend this country from this communist china invader if they will extend further their illegal occupancy of the Philippines territory from 75 Miles distant from Palawan, the Mischief or Panganiban reef to the Sulu Sea to the inner part of the country. Taiwan is really right. The Philippines is heavily bullied by china.
To all the netizens, if you have read many articles online, many Chinese are claiming that the world's most beautiful reef, the Tubbataha reef in the Sulu Sea was once part of china territory and they are planning to claim it back. Though their claim is not supported by the communist china government's publication but their communist government is fun of brainwashing their people and telling them lies that the Philippines was once part of china. I just wondering why the Sulu Sea is now included in the china's claim? Not in the history of the Sultanate of Sulu to be part of China.
The Inquirer Global Nation publication yesterday titled "US Navy ship stuck in Tubbataha: Why there?" really triggered my grave concern that some Filipino Chinese in the Philippines are starts depicting to support the communist china which these people are threats of this country and must be deported from where they really came from.
Inquirer: A US Navy warship that ran aground on the Tubbataha Reefs Thursday (January 17, 2013) did not coordinate with local authorities about its passage, something that the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said was contrary to the protocol among foreign and local ships crossing the waters near the World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea.
"Why were they even near Tubbataha? The Sulu Sea is so vast, and it takes 10 hours from Puerto Princesa to reach it. Why couldn't they see it when they had all the state-of-the-art maps and navigation systems?" said Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, WWF-Philippines vice chairman and chief executive officer.
"I understand that it was an accident. But it seems they are not showing good faith, considering we're supposed to be allies, and we even have the Visiting Forces Agreement," Tan said.
The ship "entered without a permit" in violation of Republic Act No. 10067, or the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009, Angelique Songco, a protected area superintendent and head of the Tubbataha management office, told Rappler.
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.
Mum on damage to reefs
The US Seventh Fleet said the USS Guardian (MCM-5), a 68-meter minesweeper, grazed the reef and got stuck some 128 kilometers off Palawan as it sailed off to its next port call before dawn Thursday.
"The Avenger-Class ship had just completed a port call on Subic Bay, Olongapo City and was en route to her next port of call when the grounding occurred. The government of the Philippines was promptly informed of the incident," the Seventh Fleet said in a report posted on its website.
The Seventh Fleet said that "no one was hurt" in the incident and that the cause of the grounding was being investigated.
"The crew is currently working to determine the best method of safely extracting the ship. The cause of the grounding is under investigation," the US naval unit said.
The Seventh Fleet's report was, however, silent on possible damage on the Tubbataha Reef, an atoll coral reef hosting some of the densest concentrations of marine life and is known as one of the world's best diving spots.
Resupply, recreation in Subic
The ship, among US naval assets deployed in Sasebo, Japan, arrived in the Philippines and docked at the former American naval base on Subic Bay on Sunday for a routine refueling, resupply and rest and recreation stop.
The ship, manned by some 80 sailors, including Filipino-Americans, also made a brief visit to Puerto Princesa before heading off to its next port call early Thursday. No media coverage was arranged for the port call.
PH kept in dark
Tan questioned a US Embassy statement that the US Navy had promptly informed Philippine authorities about the ship running aground.
"The question is: Who did they inform? The governor of Palawan (Abraham Mitra) did not know. The Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board did not know. The Western Command (of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) did not know," he said.
Tan said the Tubbataha park rangers only knew about what happened when they spotted the ship.
"There were eight rangers on speed boats. And they could not even approach. The ship was on general quarters (alarm)," he said, referring to an announcement on naval ships preparing the ship's crew for battle or imminent damage.
10 meters of coral ruined
WWF is one of the partners of the Tubbataha Management Office, the implementing arm of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB), the agency carrying out day-to-day operations in the protection and conservation effort for the reef.
The ship might have destroyed "at least 10 meters" of coral reef serving as haven to countless species of marine life, according to Tan.
He said information relayed to him following an aerial survey of the site of the accident by the Philippine Air Force appeared to indicate that the USS Guardian rammed through at least 10 meters of coral.
"By our estimates, the size of the damage to the reef is at least 10 linear meters. Multiply that by the width of the ship and that could be the entire area of damage," he said in an interview by phone.
According to the USS Guardian website, the width of the minesweeper is 11.88 meters or 39 feet.
Tan said it was difficult to assess the extent of damage, as well as its implications in the marine life in the area, but it would definitely affect the fishing grounds in surrounding waters.
"It's possible that the corals will not grow back at all," he said when asked how long the reef would recover.
Tan said the US government must own up to its responsibility and pay the standard fines imposed by the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board.
"They must do as Greenpeace did," he said, referring to the 2005 incident when the environmentalist organization's ship ran aground and damaged a reef in the Tubbataha, for which it paid a fine of almost P400,000.
The US Navy may be fined P12,000 per square meter of damaged corals.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the government was concerned about the damage the ship's impact may have caused on the reef.
"For the moment, our main concern is to ensure safety of navigation in the area and to mitigate this incident's impact on the reef, which is a natural and national treasure," said Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, spokesperson of the DFA.
Hernandez said it was coordinating with the US Embassy, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense in investigating the incident.
No oil leak
In a statement issued late Thursday, the US Embassy said the ship that ran aground off Palawan was not leaking oil into Philippine waters.
"The extent of damage to the ship and the cause of the grounding are under investigation, but there are no initial reports of leaking of fuel or oil," the embassy said.
It further said that safeguarding the ship's crew and preventing environmental damage "are the US Navy's top priorities."
The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) questioned the presence of the US minesweeper, saying it "again raises questions regarding US military presence in the country" under the Philippine-US Visiting Force Agreement.
"It appears that the country is a de facto outpost for refueling, supply and rest and recreation, much like during the time of US bases, but minus the formality and absent a treaty," said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.
The Philippines ousted US bases in 1991 but remains a steady defense ally of the United States, with a standing Mutual Defense Treaty for six decades.
Last year, US ships made 197 port calls in the Philippines, while some 444 American aircraft were cleared for landing in the country's airports, according to the DFA.
The incident followed the recovery of an unarmed US aerial target drone off the coast of Masbate earlier this month. The Philippine government ruled out any sovereignty issues in the incident as the drone was not launched within Philippine air space.
The US Embassy said the drone, the type used for military drills and not for surveillance, was launched from a US Navy destroyer in September during large-scale US naval exercises in Guam and was swept to the Philippine coast by ocean currents.
My compatriots let's keep an eye for the situations. These make me sleepless each night since the Scarborough Shoal Stand-off until the recent development in the West Philippines Sea which is really disturbing to the peace situation of the Asia Pacific Region. I am calling for unity. We need to discuss this matter seriously.This is Prince Dan We, one of the editors of the Rebuilding for the Better Philippines.