USS Guardian destroyed 10 meters portion of Tubbataha National Marine Park
Alfredo B. Ancheta
Anchor for Allvoices
It is of great interest to note that twenty-years after the closure of the largest ship repair facility outside US mainland on the former US Naval Base on Subic Bay, Philippines, “U.S. Navy ships have stepped up visits to Philippine ports for refueling, rest and recreation, and joint military exercises as a result of a redeployment of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region. The Philippines, a U.S. defense treaty ally, has been entangled in a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.”
After completion its port call in Subic Bay, US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian hit a coral reef on Thursday in the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea, 640 kilometers (400 miles) southwest of Manila.
The Philippine government’s Protected Area Management Board head, Angelique Songco aboard a Philippine Air Force plane conducted a flying over trip to Tubbataha National Marine Park on Friday and assessed that “The ship was not listing or leaking oil but its bow struck the reef.”… "(The ship) does not appear to be damaged."
Songco couldn’t approximate the extent of the reef was damaged however, emphasized that “the government imposes a fine of about $300 per square meter (yard) of damaged coral area.” Furthermore, she said that park rangers were not allowed to board the ship for inspection and were told to contact the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Their radio calls to the ship were ignored, she said.
The 68-meter (74-yard) long and 1,300-ton Guardian damaged at least 10 meters long of Tubbahata as the World Fund for Nature Philippines said in a statement citing an initial ocular inspection report on the stuck US Navy ship.
In a 2005 related accident, the environmental Greenpeace was fined almost $7,000 after its flagship struck a reef in the same area.
How important is the Tubbahata Reef? It is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the Coral Triangle, the world's cradle of marine life. It is off-limits to fishing and the collection of corals, wildlife and any marine life is prohibited. In 1992, UNESCO designated the reef as a World Heritage Site.