‘Justice beyond monetary compensation’

For immediate release
February 23, 2013

Environmental and women’s groups are demanding ”justice beyond monetary compensation” for the USS Guardian’s grounding of the Tubbataha Reef National Park, saying that the incident is a blatant example of US disrespect for Philippine patrimony and natural resources.

“We want indemnification beyond financial compensation, the prosecution of liable officials and the serving of due punishment, and the payment of all charges necessary to restore Tubbataha to its pristine state before the grounding,” said Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment National Coordinator Clemente Bautista, Jr.

Marine experts and leaders from people’s organizations discussed the implications of theTubbataha grounding on the country’s ecology, economy and political situation in forum held earlier today at the UP Diliman Balay Internasyunal.

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“The grounding incident will certainly impact fisheries production in the country, as scientific studies suggest that Tubbataha seeds the greater Sulu Sea. Moreover, Tubbataha is a crucial link in the world’s ocean ecosystem that hosts more than half of know coral species and around 600 species of fish,” said Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines Frances Quimpo.

“The destruction should not be seen as a mere fiscal concern. Monetary compensation alone could not bring back the ravaged Reef for a couple of centuries. More so, it could not offset the infringement of our sovereign right as a free nation,” read the unity statement of Task Force Tubbataha, an alliance convened by environmental and women’s groups to push for the due prosecution of liable entities in the Tubbataha grounding and the revocation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

The Tubbataha Marine Park Management estimated the damages fine to amount to P38 million based on current laws. This amount is much smaller than the fine paid by the US Navy for damaging coral reefs in Oahu, Hawaii in 2009.

“We must rise against the rape of Tubbataha. Unlike the Philippine government, we cannot accept the flimsy excuse given by the US military for the destruction of the marine park,” added Gabriela Secretary-general Joms Salvador. She added that the VFA has only served to make the Philippines more vulnerable to US exploitation, as evidenced by repeated assaults against “national sovereignty.”

AGHAM Advocates of Science and Technology Chairperson Giovanni Tapang noted that the US has a long history of environmental crimes including the dumping of toxic wastes in Subic

“The issue of the USS Guardian’s grounding at Tubbataha goes beyond the long term effects of coral damage and the value of the coral reef. It goes at the heart of the Visiting Forces Agreement that allows these ships to traverse our country with impunity since 2002. We should heed the calls to abrogate this unequal treaty not only to avoid further marine and environmental disasters but to finally step in and assert our sovereignty,” said Tapang. ###

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