U.S. to compensate PH for Tubbataha crash

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.

PRISTINE REEFS. The coral reefs of Tubbataha are healthy and free from parasites such as the nasty crown-of-thorns starfish that eats polyps, the live organisms that make up the coral. The conservation project was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Photo by Lory Tan/WWF

PRISTINE REEFS. The coral reefs of Tubbataha are healthy and free from parasites such as the nasty crown-of-thorns starfish that eats polyps, the live organisms that make up the coral. The conservation project was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

Photo by Lory Tan/WWF

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:

"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