Big waves slamming the USS Guardian at Tubbataha Reef (photo from AFP Western Command)

Big waves slamming the USS Guardian at Tubbataha Reef (photo from AFP Western Command)

The agency supervising the Tubbataha Reef in Palawan said it will fine the US Navy for the damage caused by the grounding of the USS Guardian at the natural park.

“We will ask them (US Navy) to take responsibility, and immediately pay the fines that can be estimated at this time,” the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) said in a statement.

The statement was issued Tuesday afternoon after Palawan Gov. Abraham Khalil Mitra, who co-chairs the TPAMB, called for a board meeting.

“This is an unfortunate incident. No one wanted this to happen. But, damage has been done,” the board said.

Under Republic Act No. 10067, the TPAMB is tasked to protect, preserve, and promote the resources of Tubbataha Reef.

“We are duty-bound to enforce the law. In order to fulfill our mandate and uphold the rule of law, it is the TPAMB’s intention to serve the US Navy with a formal notice listing violations of the law,” the board said.

Among the violations “evident at this time,” are unauthorized entry, non-payment of conservation fees, damages to the reef, and destruction of resources, according to the TPAMB.

“The park has suffered physical damage, the extent of which cannot be accurately estimated at this time,” the board said.

The board said it will also sue the US Navy for obstruction of law enforcement.

Earlier, the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) said the USS Guardian did not inform park rangers of its presence and situation and was only discovered via radar.

“Marine park rangers radioed the USS Guardian, introducing themselves as law enforcers. They informed them of their violations and announced their intention to board the vessel. However, upon approaching, they saw soldiers taking position with their weapons and, since radio contact was unanswered, the boarding protocol was aborted,” the TMO said.

“The ship’s commander ordered a general alert and deployed personnel into battle position when our rangers tried to approach their ship to assess the situation, forcing them to back off,” Tubbataha park superintendent Angelique Songco said.

The USS Guardian, an Avenger-class minesweeper, run aground at the Tubbataha Reef on Jan. 17, three days after making a port call at the former US naval base in Subic Bay, Zambales. (John Roson)

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