Philippines fines US Navy over Guardian's 'unauthorised entry'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 2:34am


Philippine authorities said yesterday they had fined the US Navy for "unauthorised entry" after a minesweeper ran aground on a World Heritage-listed reef.

Manila announced the initial penalty amid growing anger in the Philippines over last Thursday's stranding of the USS Guardian on the Tubbataha Reef.

A government-led board that manages the reef served formal notice yesterday, board member Jose Lorenzo Tan said.

The site is protected by Philippine law and is off-limits to navigation except for research or tourism approved by the marine park superintendent. The law prescribes a maximum of a year in prison plus a fine of up to 300,000 pesos (HK$56,500) for unauthorised entry. But Tan said the penalty agreed by the board did not include the jail option and declined to disclose the exact amount of the fine.

A board statement issued by Tan said the US Navy would also be fined for "non-payment of conservation fee" and "obstruction of law enforcement officer".

The marine park superintendent, Angelique Songco, said park rangers had warned the USS Guardian that it was nearing the reef, but the captain insisted they raise their complaint with the US embassy.

Fines for "damages to the reef" and "destroying resources" would be assessed after the vessel is retrieved from the reef.