MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The US government will pay the Philippines “appropriate compensation” for the grounding of its ship in Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, the American embassy said on Sunday, February 3.
“In view of damage caused by the USS Guardian accident at Tubbataha Reef, the United States has expressed its regrets and is prepared to provide appropriate compensation to the Republic of the Philippines,” an official statement noted.
The amount of the compensation will be determined only after the vessel is fully pulled out and an extensive damage assessment of the reef is finalized, a US embassy source told Rappler.
The minesweeper ran aground on January 17 inside the protected area of the marine park, a UNESCO World Heritage site considered one of the world’s best dive sites.
Now the vessel is waiting for the Coast Guard to approve the US Navy’s salvage plan of cutting the ship up into pieces before transferring the sections to a barge in order to minimize further damage to the reef.
New US-funded programs for Tubbataha
In the same statement, the US government also announced that in addition to the compensation, Washington is planning to hold “a number of other activities which will underscore its commitment to Tubbataha’s recovery and the protection of the marine resources of the Philippines.”
The efforts, to be coordinated by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), will include:
- Organizing a roundtable with local coral reef conservation experts “to listen to concerns and discuss options for conservation and restoration of” Tubbataha
- P4.1 million grant to a Philippine university to support coral restoration research in the marine park
- Formation of a team of US experts that will discuss “coral reef rehabilitation options” in Tubbataha with the government agencies, park management, local marine scientists and NGOs
- Upgrade of the existing ranger station with possible installation of radar and communications equipment to avoid collisions and better monitor poaching activity
- Improve cartographic information on Tubbataha by sharing hydrographic survey data with the Philippine National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria)
“Coral reefs in the Philippines, including the Tubbataha Reef, are some of the most important biodiversity centers in the world, and helping the Philippines conserve these remarkable resources is a long-standing commitment of the United States government,” the statement said.
Washington — according to embassy figures — has invested over P1.9 billion in the past decade to support marine biodiversity conservation programs in the Philippines. – Rappler.com