Tubbataha incident caused by total negligence
The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, located in the Central Sulu Sea, is cited as one of the most biologically diverse and one of the remarkable coral reefs on the planet. It is home to 600 species of fish, 360 species of corals, 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphins and whales, 100 species of birds and sea turtles. It is a marine sanctuary designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Last Jan. 17, the USS Guardian, a sophisticated US Navy minesweeper, ran aground on a portion of the fragile ecosystem while it was on its way to Indonesia after refueling in Subic Bay, Olongapo. The ship damaged at least 1,000 square meters of the reef, which will take more than 250 years to get back to its sound condition.
In addition to that, the question on how the sophisticated equipment veered into a protected area without a prior park clearance remains unsolved and under investigation. Until now, the 68-meter-long vessel is still there, defueled to prevent an oil spill and lessen the damage already done. Due to climate change, the longer the ship stays there, the more damage it will bring.
The Philippines is one of the few places in the world where marine biodiversity is at its best. In this ecosystem, thousands of species, including those that are indigenous and considered endangered, can live. With our ocean life gradually deteriorating, Tubbataha is one of the best places where our strategies toward protection and conservation can be seen.
The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a World Heritage Site for a reason. It is a place of beauty, of nature, of life. By destroying even a bit of the reef, life-forms are destroyed. These lives take more time than humans to mature and to develop. These invaluable life-forms have no ability to protect their own shelter; they need us to take care of them. And so it is with great pain that we see our dearly protected sanctuaries damaged, our efforts to guard them disrespected, our fishermen jobless.
In line with our advocacy to preserve and protect the environment, we, the Divers Club of the University of the Philippines Diliman, strongly condemn this act of disregard for the environment. Had the involved parties responsibly checked and surveyed the route that they took, no reef would have been damaged. No words of apology can revive this ruined haven. As protectors of the environment, we call for justice for this negligence, and hope that the responsible parties be punished according to the law.
—JENNILEEN A. MANALOTO, president, UP Divers Club, [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.