Press Release
February 13, 2013


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said that destruction by a US Navy warship in the Tubbataha Reef within Philippine territory was an "internationally wrongful act which entails the international responsibility" of the United States.

Santiago said that under international law, the US committed an internationally wrongful act because when the warship ran aground in the Reef, the destruction caused is attributable to the US and constitutes a breach of an international obligation.

Santiago, an international law expert who has been elected as judge of the International Criminal Court, made the statement during a speech last Tuesday at UP Manila.

"Under the principle of objective responsibility, even in the absence of negligence of fault, the US government has committed a breach of international obligation," Santiago said.

Hence, according to Santiago, the US is now under "obligation to make reparation in an adequate form" because there has been a breach of an international engagement.

Santiago said that while the regrets and the compensation offered by the US ambassador to the Philippines are welcome, it is not enough.

"It is not enough for the US to apologize and offer forms of assistance. In my view, the statement issued by the US embassy makes American compensation and other activities look like foreign assistance, for which we Filipinos are expected to be grateful!" the senator said.

"International law is clear that whether or not there was negligence or fault on the part of the US warship, under the principle of state responsibility, the US government is responsible for the partial destruction of Tubbataha Reef, which some say will need 250 years to be fully restored. Under the principle of objective responsibility, the basic test is whether there has been a breach of international obligation," Santiago explained.

"The US has accepted that it has committed such a breach of its international obligation. Therefore, the US government should stop referring to the Tubbataha event as an 'accident.' Instead, the Tubattaha event should be called a 'breach of international obligation.' Hence, the American offer of compensation should not be viewed or made to appear as an indulgence in American magnanimity, but as a dictate of a legal obligation under international law," Santiago said.

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