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Report: UNESCO eyes Tubbataha as 'particularly sensitive' area

Following two grounding incidents on Tubbataha Reef this year, an agency of the United Nations is proposing making the area a "particularly sensitive sea area" (PSSA), a status that would bar large vessels from getting near the area.

A report on state-run Philippines News Agency said the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's proposal stemmed from the groundings of the USS Guardian and a Chinese vessel.

“They want to help us resolve the issue and we welcome any help from the UNESCO to ensure the safety of Tubbataha,” it quoted Tubbataha Management Office head Angelique Songco as saying.

Songco said a PSSA status will help preserve the Tubbataha Reef from potential accidents, referring to the two groundings earlier this year.

For now, she said experts from UNESCO will conduct a study of the Tubbataha to help local environment authorities apply for a PSSA.

Once declared a PSSA,  large vessels will not be allowed to pass by the area, except those that help secure it from illegal fishing and other banned fishing methods, the report said.

Last Jan. 17, the minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground at the reef, damaging 2,345.67 square meters of reef. The ship was removed at the end of March.

On April 8, a Chinese vessel also ran aground there. Its 12 occupants were charged and detained, even as authorities found boxes of frozen pangolins aboard the vessel.

Songco said the marine park is sensitive and should be highly protected. — LBG, GMA News