3:18 am | Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
MANILA, Philippines—Militant groups on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to stop the United States from holding war games in the country, as well as from making port calls, following the damage wrought in the Tubbataha protected area by one of its Navy warships, the USS Guardian, when it ran aground in January.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Kalikasan and other groups filed an urgent motion for a temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) in the high court. In April, they asked for a writ of “kalikasan” on the same case against the US government for the damage in Tubbataha.
In an 87-page petition, the groups sought for an ex-parte Tepo or a writ of kalikasan aimed at ordering the respondents led by Scott Swift, commander of the US 7th Fleet, and Mark Rice, commanding officer of the Guardian, “to stop port calls and military exercises in the absence of clear environmental guidelines, duties and liability schemes for breaches of those duties.”
The Guardian ran aground in Tubbataha on Jan. 17, damaging 2,345 square meters of coral reefs.
US’ unpaid fine
The petitioners asked for another Tepo for the respondents to place a deposit of P58,375,080 to the Tubbataha Reefs National Park Trust Fund “as a reasonable guaranty toward full reparations.”
It was the same amount that the Philippine government had previously demanded from the US government as fine for the maritime incident.
The US government has not yet paid the fine to the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO).
Calling on the Supreme Court to proceed with the case, the militant groups said the American respondents were deemed to have waived and lost the privileges and immunity.
They “failed to appear and object to the jurisdiction of the court” over them, the groups said, referring to the first case they filed in the high court in April seeking a writ of kalikasan.
In justifying their demand for the first Tepo, the groups said the Tubbataha reef system would be exposed to “further marine trauma” if the US port calls in Subic, Manila and Cebu continue unrestricted.
“Continued unrestricted visitation, transit and port calls of US forces are leading to an inequitable and unfair situation where US respondents are using national and local government assets and resources, all at the government’s expense, for apparently unlimited use of national ports for their routine port calls without having to pay for prior liquidated extraordinary environmental damages caused by the US respondents’ very own previous port call (Guardian),” they said.
They asked the high court to issue a Tepo setting specific environmental guidelines for the United States to adhere to.
In their petition for a second Tepo, the groups are asking the respondents to pay the fine through the “reasonable guaranty deposit” so that the Tubbataha Reefs National Park and TMO would be able to meet their financial obligations, as well as start the rehabilitation of the damaged corals.
“It is in the US respondents’ own interest to make the payment immediately, because prior US Navy disasters would show that the total settlement amount will increase through time and for every day of delay,” they said.
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