Senator Chiz Escudero said on Wednesday that the United States should “pay up in cash” amid speculations that the United States government had suggested that it would instead pay the P58 million penalty on the damage caused by the USS Guardian on the Tubbataha Reef “in kind. “
“I insist that the US government pays up in cash. The suggestion that they would settle their obligations through donations or aid loans are not acceptable. They should follow what the Philippine law required for the incident,” said Senator Chiz Escudero in a statement.
Even if the return from the offer to pay in kind would be bigger than the actual fine, Escudero noted that this would be unacceptable since what was provided in the law should be followed.
He added that agreeing to the US government suggestion that it provide aid instead of paying a fine was equivalent to accepting the USS Guardian should not be held accountable for the destruction it caused to Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage Site.
He said the law already imposed an inequitably small fine compared to the damage caused on the reef and it would not help in protecting the area if the government allows to waive the fine in favor of other considerations being offered by the US government.
“Increasing the penalty on the damage to the country’s protected resources would be part of my agenda in the next Congress,” he added.
On Jan. 17, the US Navy minesweeper ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef. It was supposedly on its way to Indonesia after a port call at Subic Bay. The US Navy took two months to dismantle and extricate the military vessel from the reef.
Escudero said that this was not about the amount that the country would get from the United States but it was all about following the law. It was all about the principle of respect between the two allies.
“I don’t buy the alibi given by the US Navy that the compass of the vessel failed to function and it lost its way when it rammed the reef, even Christopher Columbus used only a compass in discovering the New World. How can a modern American war vessel be sailing aimlessly?” Escudero said.
He said the penalty imposed on the US Navy vessel should also be the same for the Chinese fishing vessel that also rammed the reef recently.
“The penalty imposed on vessels that cause destruction to the country’s protected areas should, however, be increased since the fine under the current law is too small compared to the actual damage caused,” Escudero said.
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