U.S. Ought to Pay for Damage Caused by Navy Ship to Philippines’ Tubbataha Reef

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | January 22, 2013 4:42 PM EST

Whether the crew onboard the USS Guardian deliberately ignored the "no navigation" warnings surrounding the area of the Philippines' Tubbataha Reef or it relied on wrong map navigational data, what's certain is that the U.S. government still ought to pay for the damages its Navy minesweeper caused on the World Heritage-listed coral reef.

"It's incumbent upon our government to file for such claim," Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, Philippine transportation and communications secretary, said on Monday.

Senior officers from the U.S. Navy have arrived in the Asian country to assess the damage as well as participate in the salvaging operations of the vessel, which ran aground in the Sulu Sea on Thursday on its way to Indonesia.

Although it is still uncertain if the U.S. will indeed pay, Mr Abaya remained confident that being a responsible nation, the economic giant will owe up to the unfortunate incident.

The Philippine Coast Guard, an agency under Mr Abaya's office, will lead the effort to remove the ship as well as into the investigations as to why it wandered off into Tubbataha.

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a 97,030-hectare World Heritage site that is known as one of the world's best dive sites, is composed of two coral atolls that shelter a wide range of marine species including large marine life such as turtles, manta rays and sharks.

Meanwhile, a local Philippine legislator had questioned the presence of the U.S. navy vessel plying the waters near the Tubbataha Reef.

"What is a U.S. navy ship doing in the area?" Feliciano Belmonte Jr., leader of the Philippines' lower chamber, said on Monday.

Observers had likewise questioned if the USS Guardian indeed was a minesweeper since among all vessels, it is precisely a minesweeper that would be able to immediately discover obstacles below the surface of the water, since that is its primary function.

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