MANILA - Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said port calls made by the United States will proceed amid the crisis generated by the grounding of its minesweeper in the protected site Tubbataha Reef.
"Once a request for port call is filed, for as long as there is nothing unusual in the port call, we do accept port calls. So they will continue. It has nothing to do with what happened in Tubbataha," Gazmin insisted.
He said port calls are part of the country’s dealings “with the international world.”
The USS Guardian, the 68-meter minesweeper, ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef on January 17.
The salvor sent by the US Navy has removed the bulk of fuel oil and materials that could pose environmental risks.
The US Navy reported that no fuel leaked and the “15,000 gallons of diesel fuel was safely transferred to the US-contracted Malaysian tug-boat, the Vos Apollo during controlled defueling operations completed on January 25.”
The Philippines is seeking damages, with President Benigno Aquino III saying that apologies from the US Navy would not simply do. He said they are “not exempt them from having to comply with our laws.”
Asked how similar incidents will be prevented in the future, the Defense chief said: “That is a very hard question to answer. As you very well know, the captain said it’s due to a faulty chart. How do we address that? Correct the chart if it is really a defective chart."