Tuesday, November 01, 2005


GREENPEACE is to be fined after its flagship Rainbow Warrior II damaged a coral reef in the central Philippines during a climate change awareness campaign.

The ship and its crew were assessed a 640,000-peso ($15,000) fine after the 55m motor-assisted schooner ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park yesterday, park manager Angelique Songco said.
The ship's bow sliced through a reef formation measuring 160sq m, she said.

A Greenpeace official in the Philippines described the incident as accidental, and said it would comply with the marine park authorities' ruling.

Rainbow Warrior II arrived in the reservation in the middle of the Sulu Sea, about 600km south of Manila, last weekend as part of a four-month Asia-Pacific campaign to promote earth-friendly energy sources, Greenpeace campaign manager Red Constantino said.

He said the crew made dive sorties to inspect the effect of global warming on the coral formation, which is listed among the World Heritage sites of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

The chart indicated we were a mile and a half" from the coral reef when the ship ran aground, Mr Constantino said. He said the August 2005 navigational map was provided by the mapping office of the Philippine Government.

The ship's own rubber boats safely towed it into deeper water, and it escaped serious damage.

Mr Constantino said the ship was now heading back to the Puerto Princesa on the western island of Palawan to file an incident report with the marine park office.

Originally built in Britain in 1957 as a steam-powered fishing vessel, Rainbow Warrior II replaced its namesake that was sunk by French agents in 1985 in Auckland harbor on its way to Moruroa Atoll to block a French nuclear test.

One crew member drowned and two French secret service agents were later jailed after pleading guilty to charges of manslaughter and wilful damage.

Mr Constantino said that Greenpeace divers on the Tubbataha expedition had found that healthy coral and no evidence of bleaching, believed to be caused by warming sea temperatures.

He said the healthy state of the Tubbataha Reefs did not disprove the theory of global warming, which he described as an "extremely complicated science".


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