Monday, May 27, 2013

TUBBATAHA GRIEF (The decision to impose a mere USD1.4M or PhP60M fine for the US Navy ship’s grounding on the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park adds insult to injury)

By Siesta-friendly

As far as we can determine (especially based on the documents available at the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park website, the provisions re the applicable fines for damages to the Tubbataha Reef are as follows:

“Section 20. Damages to the Reef. - Damages to the reef shall subject the responsible person or entity to the payment of administrative fines set by the TPAMB based on current valuation standards and to the payment of the cost of restoration.”, and

“Rule 21. Damage to the Reef. Damage to the reef shall subject the responsible person or entity to the payment of administrative fines set by the TPAMB based on the current valuation standards, which shall not be less than Twelve Thousand Pesos (PhP12,000.00) per square meter. The violators shall be also liable for the payment of the cost of restoration which shall not be less than 12,000.00 per square meter, or as may be determined by the TPAMB.” [Underline Supplied]

Knowing these provisions and not knowing any other legal provisions contrary or amendatory to AO No. 01 Series of 2012 above, we are perplexed by the TPAMB’s final assessment in the amount of - 

“… PhP58.4 million, USD1.5 million, in fines [payable] by the US Government. This amount is the total of the penalties for violating Tubbataha Act (Republic Act 10067) Section 19 (Unauthorized entry), Section 20 (Damages to the reef), Section 21 (Non- payment of conservation fees), Section 26g (Destroying, disturbing resources) and Section 30 (Obstruction of Law Enforcement Officers).”

“[The fine of] $1.4 million is but a slap on the wrist … However, we respect the rule of law and this is the fine stipulated. The Tubbataha Management Office will not ask for anything more,” she said.”

We wonder why the TPAMB has apparently set P12,000 as the maximum fine per square meter when Rule 21 of AO 1 Series of 2012 does not put a maximum limit on the fines for damages. 

The area damaged has been determined to be 2,345.67 square meters. The reported administrative fine is PhP28,1148,040 (or 12,000 x 2,345.67).  And because it has been reported that no more than PhP60M in fines will be imposed, we assume that the fine for the cost of restoration has been determined to be also PhP28,1148,040 (again, 12,000 x 2,345.67) because PhP28,1148,040 x 2 = PhP56,296,080 which is within the total fine of USD1.5M or PhP58.4M.

The balance (PhP58.4M less PhP56,296,080) should comprise the fines for minor violations namely, Unauthorized entry, Non-payment of conservation fees, Destroying, disturbing resources and Obstruction of Law Enforcement Officers. But what is the fine for arrogance? -

“Park rangers radioed the USS Guardian to advise it was nearing the Tubbataha Reef on Thursday, but the ship captain radioed back telling park rangers to bring their complaint to the US embassy, [TPAMB Superintendent Angelique] Songco told reporters on Monday.

Songco blamed he USS Guardian for turning away park rangers who were about to follow protocol by boarding the ship to check if it had the proper permits, but saw the minesweeper's crewmembers were in "battle position."

Shortly after the warning, the US ship rammed into the Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Sulu Sea about 130 kilometers south east of the western island of Palawan.”

So, anyway, why can’t the fines be increased pursuant to Rule 21?  Why has Rule 21 been ignored?  What rule have we missed that supersedes Rule 21?

We have thrice emailed the TPAMB for clarification (we have no budget for a long distance call to Palawan).  At least 1 month has already passed and we haven’t received even a notice that they received our email.

We shall update this post once we find the answers.

Now that another ship (Chinese this time) has crashed into the reef (and damaged a bigger area), we await the imposable fines and hope for a more detailed computation.


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