MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is one step closer to getting compensation for the damage inflicted by a United States navy ship on the Tubbataha Reefs where it ran aground in 2013.
“On June 13, 2014, we received a request for compensation from the Philippine government. We are looking for a speedy resolution to the compensation issue,” US Ambassador Philip Goldberg told Rappler on Tuesday, June 17.
The USS Guardian obliterated 2,345.67 square meters of coral reef when it crashed into the world-famous marine park and protected area on January 17, 2013.
Though Goldberg did not release the amount of compensation in the request, the Philippine government had pegged the cost of the damage at P58 million (US$1.3 million). The amount is disputed by environmentalists, who say the cost must be higher.
Petitiioners, which include various environmental and church groups, demand a fine of P737.8 million ($16.8 million) to P1.2 billion ($27 million).
But the US Embassy has chosen to negotiate directly with the Philippine government instead of entertaining petitions from other groups.
“We have handled all aspects of the Tubbataha issue on a diplomatic government-to-government basis that’s why we have not reacted to certain groups saying we should pay this, pay that,” said Goldberg.
“We are grateful for the assistance of the Philippines in coordinating with the United States to address this unfortunate accident, reflecting the deep and enduring alliance between our two nations,” said US Embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer.
He gave assurances that the US would “continue to work closely with the government of the Philippines to resolve the issue of compensation for damage to the reef.”
The US had previously said it was prepared to provide compensation for mangled reef, but petitions filed before the Philippine Supreme Court led to an impasse in negotiations between the Philippines and the US.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in January that after the US signified its willingness to pay the fine, “a Writ of Kalikasan was issued, requiring submissions to the Supreme Court, thereby resulting in the deferment of the resolution of the compensation issue.”
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. – Rappler.com