Tubbataha report: US mum on paying PH
MANILA, Philippines – Six months after a US ship damaged a World Heritage Site in the Philippines, the US Navy finally released a report on the Tubbataha incident and pinned the blame on “lack of leadership.”
In its 160-page final report, the US Navy said it is considering “further disciplinary and administrative action” on 4 officers it earlier relieved.
The report, however, was far from conclusive. It left out the most contentious issue after the grounding incident – compensation.
In its recommendations, the report said nothing about compensating the Philippines for the damaged Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site considered the “crown jewel” of Philippine seas.
Instead, the recommendations contained plans for training personnel and improving systems, among other things.
Initial estimates showed the US was supposed to pay P58 million ($1.4 million) for the damages. Tubbataha Reefs Park Superintendent Angelique Songco earlier said this amount is “a slap on the wrist” considering that the US' salvage operations for the ship was pegged at nearly $45 million.
'Prepared' to pay PH
In a separate press statement, the US Navy said it “is prepared to work with the Philippines to provide compensation for the damage to the reef caused by the grounding.” It did not detail this aspect.
Gregg Yan, communications manager of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) said he is confident the US will compensate the Philippines for the damages. WWF-Philippines works to protect the Tubbataha Reef.
“We are hopeful that they'll do the right thing. In fact we're sure they'll do the right thing. It didn't even cross our mind they won't pay,” Yan said in a phone interview with Rappler.
The US Navy was involved in a similar case in the past, but in an American state.
In 2009, a US Navy ship destroyed about 890 square meters of coral reef in Hawaii. It ended up paying $15 million (P610 million) to the state of Hawaii, but only “after much media furor,” according to WWF-Philippines.
'Wholly preventable' but...
In its final report on the Tubbataha incident, the US Navy described the mishap as “wholly preventable” – “the product of poor voyage planning, poor execution, and unfortunate circumstances.”
“USS Guardian leadership and watch teams failed to adhere to the prudent, safe, and sound navigation principles which would have alerted them to approaching dangers with sufficient time to take mitigating action,” the US Navy said.
It enumerated problems such as the following:
“disregard of visual cues, elecronic cues, and alarms” in the hours before the grounding;
the ship's “degraded” navigation ability because of “reliance on what would turn out to be inaccurate digital nautical charts.”
“Ultimately, the lack of leadership led to increased navigational risk to the ship and her crew,” the US Navy said. – Rappler.com