MANILA - A day before the first anniversary of the grounding of the USS minesweeper USS Guardian on the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the Sulu Sea, environmental and religious groups urged the Supreme Court (SC) anew to issue a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) on the reefs.
The petitioners also urged the court to stop US-Philippine war games and US port of calls "in the absence of clear environmental guidelines, duties, and liability schemes for breaches of those duties."
Petitioners, led by Most Rev. Pedro Arigo, also urged the high court to compel respondents to "place a deposit to the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park (TRNP) Trust Fund... as a bona fide gesture towards full reparations" the amount of P58.38 million.
Petitioners also urged the high court to direct appropriate government agencies to begin administrative, civil, and criminal proceedings against erring individuals who have caused damage to the reefs, and order respondents to pay just and reasonable compensation in the settlement of all claims for damages on the reefs.
The TEPO requested by petitioners also intends to prevent the US Navy or any of its representatives from restoring, repairing, or salvaging the damaged areas minus the payment of just settlement.
Citing a high court ruling, petitioners pointed out that "courts of the Philippines have jurisdiction over crimes committed aboard merchant vessels anchored in our jurisdiction waters."
The petition stressed that the US Navy cannot invoke immunity from the Tubbataha Reef grounding incident using the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Petitioners filed a petition for Writ of Kalikasan with a prayer for TEPO last year, but the high court has not yet granted the plea.