The remarks of American businessman Donald Trump Jr. criticizing a US Navy plan to dismantle its minesweeper that is stuck at the Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Sea has sparked outrage among netizens and prompted a militant group to ask President Aquino to declare him persona non grata in the Philippines.
The militant group Anakbayan on Thursday said that Trump’s tweets, which indicated that he thought the USS Guardian was more important than the reef, were offensive and displayed a lack of regard for Philippine heritage.
Trump is the son of American real estate mogul Donald Trump, who is investing in a real estate project in Makati City.
“Trump Jr.’s attitude toward the Tubbataha Reefs reflects that of the US military and government’s general view [of] the Philippines: a [US] colony. Thus, their lack of respect for our sovereignty and national heritage,” Anakbayan chairman Vencer Crisostomo said in a statement.
Anakbayan also said all US military troops must be declared persona non grata in the Philippines.
Trump tweeted a link from a news website that reported the $277-million Guardian, still stuck in Tubbataha two weeks after running aground there on Jan. 17, was going to be dismantled instead of being towed so as not to cause more damage to the reef.
In his remarks attached to the link, he said: “This is how stupid we are! $1/4 bil + ho hum.”
When Twitter user @adamq112 asked Trump if he was saying the boat was more important than the reef, Trump said he was not referring to the whole reef.
“But yes, a 277 million boat is more important than a 200 x 50 section of reef that has already been run over,” he said.
He also told @polablangkita that the whole reef was not destroyed, just a portion of it the size of the ship.
“That is not worth 277 million by any standard,” he said.
It is not yet clear how much damage the Guardian has caused in Tubbataha. The Philippine Coast Guard has estimated the damage at 1,000 square meters of coral reef.
President Aquino has said the US Navy is facing fines for entering the protected natural park and causing damage there.
Park superintendent Angelique Songco said the government imposes a fine of $300 for every square meter of damaged reef.
But former Sen. Jamby Madrigal said Thursday that the US Navy should pay the Philippines more than P700 million for the mess caused by the Guardian.
Madrigal, who is running again for the Senate in the May midterm elections, said the fine pegged by the Philippine government, equivalent to P38 million, was too little compared to the $15 million the US Navy paid to Hawaii for the damage to coral caused by the grounding of USS Port Royal there in February 2009.
“I hope the [Department of Environment and Natural Resources will] push for [a bigger fine],” Madrigal told reporters during a visit to the City of San Fernando in Pampanga province.
She said a big amount was needed for the rehabilitation of Tubbataha.
Responding to other Twitter users, Trump said it would be better if the ship was towed off the area instead of spending months tearing it apart, since the endeavor would entail the use of other ships that might cause more damage.
“Months of disassembly and other boats will do more damage than pulling it off,” he said.
Several netizens disagreed.
Twitter user @CaraManglapus told Trump: “You obviously don’t know what or where you’re talking about. It’s Asia’s most prized reef. Ratio insignificant.”
Another user, @elisrivac, asked Trump: “Do you really consider money your God? Come on. Please make us a natural coral reef out of your dollars.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño also tweeted: “Your 277 million killing machine can never be more important than even a small section of reef that gives life to the oceans.”
Terry Ridon, Kabataan party-list president, said Trump’s statements ran counter to the claims of the US government and the US Navy that they respected the Philippines.
Ridon said the Philippines must scrap its military agreements with the United States. With a report from Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon