Supreme Court urged to decisively act on Tubbataha case

By Jonathan Mayuga, Business Mirror

THE Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday called on the Supreme Court to act on the petition asking the high tribunal to assess the damage caused by the grounding of the USS Guardian to the Tubbataha Reef in Palawan last year.

Aside from ordering a damage assessment on the incident, the 90-page petition also sought for the issuance of the writ of kalikasan with Temporary Environmental Protection Order, determination of the fine to be imposed on the US Navy and the prosecution of the officers of the American minesweeper that ran aground and caused destruction at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) World Heritage Site.

It has been more than a year after the USS Guardian ran aground the Tubbataha Reef.  Until now, however, the US government has yet to settle the fine slapped against the US Navy for the incident.  The Tubbataha Reef Park Management Office has slapped the US Navy a fine of only P58 million for the damage to around 2,000 square meters of corals at the Unesco-declared World Heritage Site.

Peter Gonzales, vice chairman of Pamalakaya, said the Supreme Court has to act on the case based on the collective sentiment of the Filipino people.

“It is a herculean task but it is the right thing to do,” he said.

The petition was filed by a multisectoral group, led by Bishop Pedro Arigo of Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr., bishop emeritus of Caloocan; Frances Quimpo, Clemente Bautista Jr. of Kalikasan-Pne; Maria Carolina Araullo and Renato Reyes Jr. of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan); Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna; Roland Simbulan of Junk VFA Movement; Teresita Perez; Rep. Raymond Palatino of Kabataan Party-list; Giovanni Tapang, Agham; Elmer Labog of Kilusang Mayo Uno; Joan May Salvador of Gabriela; Jose Enrique Africa; Theresa Concepcion; Mary Joan Guan; Nestor Baguinon; and public interest lawyer Edsel Tupaz.  Pamalakaya is also one of the petitioners.

In their petition, the petitioners asked the high tribunal to stop the US war games and port calls by US ships in the absence of clear guidelines on environmental protection under the Visiting Forces Agreement.

“The high tribunal should uphold national sovereignty on the USS Guardian case. The US government committed first-rate crimes against the country’s national sovereignty and blockbuster destruction of national environment and patrimony. It should not dillydally or put national sovereignty to its deathbed while allowing the White House and the US military to trample upon our sovereign rights and legitimate claim to truth, justice and accountability. That is very, very unfair,” he said

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