US to pay PH P87M for damage to World Heritage Site
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Almost two years after an American navy vessel damaged coral reefs in a UNESCO World Heritage Site off the coast of Palawan, the United States is finally compensating the Philippines.
The US is set to pay the Philippines P87 million (US$1.9 million), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed on Friday, October 24.
The news came 4 months after the US received a formal request for compensation from the Philippine government on June 13, 2014.
DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a text message: "When asked on the status of US payment for Tubbataha, SFA [Albert del Rosario] said we are now in the documentation stage. When asked how much we are asking from US, he replied, '87 million pesos.'"
But Kurt Hoyer, press attaché of the US embassy told Rappler that no amount has been finalized yet. The US embassy is also yet to release a statement on the matter.
"We will have a statement when all is finalized. Hopefully soon," he said via text message.
The USS Guardian obliterated 2,345.67 square meters of coral reef when it crashed into Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, the world-famous marine park and protected area in Palawan province on January 17, 2013.
US Ambassador Philip Goldberg in June did not release the amount of compensation in Manila's request, but the Philippine government had pegged the cost of the damage at P58 million ($1.3 million).
Environmentalists who had gone to the Supreme Court to force the government to demand compesation from the US had a higher estimate of damage: P737.8 million ($16.8 million) to P1.2 billion ($27 million).
The US Embassy, however, chose to negotiate directly with the Philippine government instead of entertaining petitions from other groups.
The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered the "crown jewel of Philippine seas" because of its rich marine life.
Angelique Songco, superintendent of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park told Rappler that the P87 million is the combined amount of payment for the damage of the reefs and costs incurred by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
Of the amount, P58 million is to compensate for the damage of the park, while around P28 million will pay for fuel and repair costs incurred by the PCG while assisting the US Navy. – with a report from Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com