STRANDED ON THE CORAL. The USS Guardian hit the upper side of Tubbataha's South Atoll on January 17When the USS Port Royal, a guided missile cruiser, ran aground near the Honolulu International Airport in Hawaii in 2009 and destroyed about 890 square meters of coral reef, US Navy shelled out US$15 million (about P610-M based on the current exchange rate) to the State of Hawaii, noted the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The possible stark difference the US Navy will pay the Philippines for the recent grounding of the USS Guardian minesweeper at the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park near Palawan has come to light. Based on preliminary assessments, the vessel damaged at least 1,600 sqm, almost twice the area destroyed 4 years ago in Hawaii. Philippine laws, however, mandate the US Navy to pay a mandatory fine of P12,000 (about $300) per sqm of damaged coral, plus another P12,000 for rehabilitation efforts. This means that the Americans will be charged a minimum penalty of P38.4 million or $960,000, a mere 6.3% of what they had to pay for half of the damage in Hawaii.
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