Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tubbataha Reef, UNESCO World Heritage Site

Authorities target preventing more damage to Tubbataha Reef, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, where American navy minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground last week.

"We're focusing on that ship's removal from the area to avoid further damage there," said Sec. Ramon Paje from Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources which is part of the multi-agency group looking into the incident.

He also said the group is discussing removal of oil from the ship.

"Among our concerns is how to extract that oil as soon as possible to prevent it from leaking into the sea," he said.

Tubbataha Reef lies in marine biodiversity-rich Coral Triangle.

"It's part of the area experts identified as center of the center of marine biodiversity in the world," Paje said.

World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines already expressed concern about "immense hazards" which this organization said the stranded USS Guardian is posing to Tubbataha's underwater ecosystem.

WWF reported the vessel's holds "have taken in water" and "hundreds of meters of once-pristine reef have already been flattened."

Republic Act 10067 established 97,030-hectare Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park as a protected area.

PAs are identified portions of land and water set aside by reason of respective unique physical and biological significance, managed to enhance biological diversity and protected against destructive human exploitation, RA 10067 noted.

Under RA 10067, Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board is in charge of TRNP's management and administration.

RA 10067 penalizes acts like unauthorized entry in TRNP, non-payment of conservation fees, obstruction to law enforcement officers and destruction of resources there.

"Damages to the reef shall subject the responsible person or entity to payment of administrative fines set by TPAMB based on current valuation standards and to payment of the cost of restoration," RA 10067 also notes.

RA 10067's Sec. 31 on common penal provisions states that in case the vessel used in violation of this law is foreign-owned, the fine shall be thrice the maximum amount imposed for the offense committed.

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