January 25, 2013
Reference: Atty. Virgie Lacsa- Suarez, Secretary General, 09209190267
SWEEPING PHILIPPINE SOVEREIGNTY IN THE DAMAGED TUBBATAHA REEFS
The USS Guardian’s running aground into the Tubbataha marine sanctuary, declared by UNESCO as one of the World’s Heritage Site, was simply dismissed by the US Navy as a navigational “accident”. Yet any sea vessel (commercial, private and military) charts its course leading to its destination before leaving its port of call. And the navigational courses are defined by established navigational lanes.
The accident was not a product of a faulty navigational map. The minesweeper deliberately veered away from the navigational lanes. Facts showed the US Guardian’s officers did not even coordinate with local authorities beforehand. They did not respond to the warnings and radio calls of the Park Rangers who introduced themselves as authorities in the area.
Past and present history shows that the US military forces are engaged in covert as well as overt operations in the country. Was the USS Guardian in a military mission to retrieve something from the reserved marine park? What is it that is valuable for a US Navy minesweeper to take the risk of running aground into the corals? Is there something highly confidential and must be secured that the US troops in the vessel did not allow the Philippine authorities to do the protocol inspection of the ship and instead took battle positions?
This action by the US troops against Philippine authorities exemplifies their utter disregard of the country’s sovereignty and signifies that they have something to keep secret. This is yet another one of several incidents attesting to the fact that the US military is keeping secret facilities or moving highly sensitive equipments inside the Philippine territory. There are certain spots inside the former US Naval Base in Subic that remain restricted. There had been several reported incidents of US military personnel driving away indigenous Filipinos from a portion of Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon that hosts a US communication facility.
The main headquarters of the US Joint US Special Operation Task Force Philippines (US JOSTFP) inside the headquarters of Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City is off limits even to ranking military officers of the AFP.The deafening silence both from the US embassy and Malacanang somehow “corroborates” the theory of a retrieval operation by the US Navy in the Tubbataha marine sanctuary. It took a week for the US Seventh Fleet to issue its first official statement on the incident. Malacanan has never filed a diplomatic protest since the January 17 incident. It never demands for an immediate investigation by an independent international body nor initiates a full investigation. The PNoy government even allowed the officers and crew of USS Guardian to be extracted and brought to undisclosed place.
This inaction by the Philippine government towards US military’s violations of Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity is never comparable to its reactions with regards Chinese fishing vessels intruding into Philippine fishing grounds.
The incident involving the USS Guardian comes at the heels of the retrieval of a US military drone in the waters nearby Ticao Island, Masbate and the dumping of toxic wastes from US naval vessels in Subic Bay. Incidents of drone crashes were earlier reported in Jolo and in Central Mindanao. These series of high display of US military related disasters are direct affront to Philippine sovereignty.
The consistent inaction or dismissive moves and passive statements by the Philippine government confirm its willing subservience and servility to US designs.
As to the USS Guardian’s tragedy all that PNoy could put forward is the question: “With so much sophisticated navigation equipment, what happened?” The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs’ call for investigation in the intent of claiming payment for damages to the Tubbataha marine sanctuary is all the PNoy government could do, never to the extent of pursuing full investigation of the incident.
For the latest US Navy-made disaster, the US has trivialized the nation’s sovereignty. It has put a price on it. The US has promised to pay Php300,000 for the damages it caused on the marine sanctuary.
For the US, nothing is irregular in their activities. Their military activities are “justified” under the US-Ph Mutual Defense Treaty as well as Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the erstwhile Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA). Both agreements sanction their military ships to freely sail around and anchor anywhere in the Philippines. Correspondingly, US troops base and operate anywhere they want to.
Recently, the PNoy administration has allowed the increasing number of US troops in the country on the so-called rotational basis. It also gave the go-signal for US military operations in more areas inside the Philippines. With these developments the Filipino people could only expect more violations of their sovereignty and territory.
More than protecting the marine sanctuary as a World Heritage, let us expose and oppose the increasing deployment of US troops and war materiel in the country. Let us frustrate the escalating intervention and interference of US in our domestic affairs.
Moreover, even as we condemn the brazen conduct of the US Navy before, during and after USS Guardian’s running aground in the marine sanctuary, let us not miss exposing more so reproaching the Philippine government’s mishandling of the issue.
The Filipino people by asserting their sovereign will would pursue the abrogation of the Mutual Defense Treaty and other laws and agreements that subject the nation to US schemes and designs.