From Inquirer.net: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/95819/santiago-us-quibbling-over-payment-of-fine
MANILA, Philippines—The United States is delaying payment of the
P58.3-million fine for damaging the Tubbataha Reefs by quibbling over
procedure, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on Sunday.
The US government has failed to compensate the Philippines close
to a year after its Navy ship, the USS Guardian, got stuck on an atoll
in the Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Sea on Jan. 17, 2013.
Santiago, former chair of the Senate foreign relations committee,
said she was “disappointed” by the claim of a US official that
Washington had not received a formal request for payment from Manila.
Compliance with such a procedure was “irrelevant” since the
Philippine government had decided to fine the US government some P58
million for the damage, Santiago said.
“Their contention that payment has not been fully delivered
because the Philippines has yet to make a formal request is dilatory,”
she said in a phone interview.
“Why quibble with these technicalities since we have brought this
case before the tribunal asking for payment? That there has been no
full compliance is irrelevant. This is very insignificant and doesn’t
detract from the judgment,” she added.
As things stand, the US must “pay” the “piddling” fine, Santiago said. “There has been a judgment. They must pay up.”
Nearly a year after the Guardian ran
aground in the protected reefs—a World Heritage site—Philippine
environment officials confirmed the US had not paid the fine imposed by
the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO).
Filipino activists and environmentalists in
April 2013 petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a writ of kalikasan
(environment), demanding a stiffer fine than the one assessed.
A US official privy to the matter reasoned
out that Manila had not formally requested settlement of damages.
Otherwise, Washington was committed to expediting such a request, the
Foreign affairs officials, however, said
that talks on compensation were still ongoing between the two countries
and that there had been some “progress.”
The Guardian—a 68-meter, 1,389-ton
minesweeper—was sailing to Indonesia after a port call at Subic in
Zambales when it ran aground in the South Atoll, one of two atolls
constituting the reef.
Experts said the damage covered 2,345.67
square meters of the reef, and the law prescribes a fine of $600, or
P24,000, for every square meter of damaged reef, plus $600 for every
square meter for rehabilitation.
Salvors retrieved the last major section of
the minesweeper on March 30 last year. It was cut up into sections to
avoid further damaging the reef.
Santiago, who was elected to the
International Criminal Court in 2011, said the US was duty bound to pay
the fine under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
(Unclos), or the customary law.
She specifically cited Article 192 of
Unclos, which provides that states have the obligation to protect and
preserve the marine environment.
“The US is bound by this. This provision binds not only those who are parties, it binds all states,” she said.
Even outside of Unclos, Santiago said the
protection of the marine environment falls under customary law, which is
just as binding on the US and other states.
Customary international law refers to
international obligations arising from established state practice, as
opposed to obligations arising from formal written international
treaties, according to the Cornell University Law School website.
Santiago cited Principle 15 of the Rio
Declaration on Environment and Development, which states: “In order to
protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely
applied by states according to their capabilities. Where there are
threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific
certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective
measures to prevent environmental degradation.”