What’s The Deal With Tubbataha Reef ?

20 Jan

Coral reefs are now collateral damage in a bungled attempt to show the flag in support of our Filipino brothers.

The United States Navy said a minesweeper that ran aground on a coral reef in the Philippines was using a faulty map that misplaced the location of the marine sanctuary.

The Navy said digital nautical charts contained inaccurate data and may have been a factor in the Guardian’s grounding.

Navigator of the Navy Rear Adm. Jonathan White released precautionary guidance to all Pacific Fleet ships, saying that “initial review of navigation data indicates an error in the location of Tubbataha Reef” in the Philippines.

The US Navy has sent an assessment team that would plan and execute the delicate extraction of the American minesweeper from the Tubbataha Reef with the least damage on the marine sanctuary where it has been trapped since Thursday, the unit’s Japan-based fleet has said.

This incident just goes to show exactly how reliable our knowledge of the blue planet really is. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) took responsibility for the snafu.

The Digital Nautical Charts (DNC) used by the Guardian and most Navy ships are produced by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), a largely secret organization headquartered in Springfield,Va.

The DNC charts come in several versions. “General” and “coastal” versions are used in open areas such as the Sulu Sea, and “approach” and “harbor” versions are used for operating in and around harbors. According to an NGA memo sent to the Navy on Jan. 18, the error was in the coastal DNC, apparently in use on board the Guardian at the time of the grounding.

The general DNC and hardcopy charts show the reef’s location correctly, NGA said.

You’d think the captain of vessels, like the U.S. Navy’s Guardian or the Rainbow Warrior would invest in and actually peruse a decent map?

Manila is a little miffed with the commander of the American vessel.

The park management lodged on Friday a formal protest with the US embassy in Manila over the behavior of the commanding officer of the minesweeper. According to Songco, he deployed armed soldiers on deck to discourage the rangers from approaching the ship.

The extent of the damage could not be immediately determined, but the World Wildlife Fund suggested on Thursday that at least 10 meters of the minesweeper’s hull had ran aground into the reef.

Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte announced on Saturday that various government agencies will be conducting their own investigation on what happened.

The US Navy may be charged with violating sections 19 and 26 of Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs National Park (TRNP) Act of 2009.

It can also expect to pay P12,000 per sqm of damaged coral.

BTW, that’s $300 per sqm that the Navy is costing the taxpayer. And, why? To support our helpless Filipino friends defend themselves against the expansive Chinese. Let’s have a sailing contest, to see which navy can navigate Tubbataha.

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