Press Release
April 24, 2013


The United States government should pay up in cash on the P58 million penalty imposed on the US Navy vessel that ran aground and caused damage in the World Heritage site Tubbataha Reef while at the same time called on the government to reject US suggestions to settle its obligations in kind.

"I insist that the US government pays up in cash, the suggestion that they would settle their obligations through donations or aid loans are not acceptable. They should follow what the Philippine law required for the incident," he said.

"Even if the return from the offer to pay in kind would be bigger than the actual fine, it remains unacceptable since what is provided in the law should be followed," Escudero said.

Agreeing to the US government suggestion that it provide aid instead of paying a fine is equivalent to accepting that the USS Guardian should not be held accountable for the destruction it caused on Tubbataha Reef, according to Escudero.

"The law already imposed an inequitably small fine compared to the damage caused on the reef and it would not help in protecting the resource if the government allows to waive the fine in favor of other considerations being offered by the US government," Escudero said.

"Increasing the penalty on the damage to the country's protected resources would be part of my agenda in the next Congress," he added.

Last January 17, the US Navy minesweeper ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef supposedly on its way to Indonesia after a port call at Subic Bay. The US Navy took two months to dismantle and extricate the military vessel from the reef.

Escudero said it is not about the amount that the country will get from the United States but it is all about following the law. It is all about the principle of respect between two allies, he said. "I don't buy the alibi given by the US Navy that the compass of the vessel failed to function and it lost its way when it rammed the reef, even Christopher Columbus used only a compass in discovering the New World. How can a modern American war vessel be sailing aimlessly?," Escudero said.

Escudero said the penalty imposed on the US Navy vessel should also be the same for Chinese fishing vessel that also rammed the reef recently.

"The penalty imposed on vessels that cause destruction to the country's protected areas should, however, be increased since the fine under the current law is too small compared to the actual damage caused," Escudero said.

Escudero noted that the government had already installed improved radar capabilities in the area to detect any intruding vessels in the Tubbataha Reef area.

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