The United States Embassy in Manila said the U.S. government has vowed to extend the 'appropriate compensation' to the Tubbataha Reef that was damaged when its mine countermeasure ship USS Guardian ran aground on the precious World Heritage site on January 17.
"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," a statement made by the US embassy in Manila said on Sunday.
Latest reports by the local media had noted that the total damaged area brought by the grounding is now at an estimated 4,000 square meters, and is expected to get bigger once the USS Guardian is extricated from the area.
As per the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009, a fine of about $300 will be imposed per square meter of damaged area, plus additional $300 per square meter for rehabilitation efforts.
In the same statement, the US government committed to provide $100,000 for the coral restoration efforts at Tubbataha.
"Through USAid's (US Agency for International Development) Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP), $100,000 will be granted to a Philippine university to support coral restoration research at Tubbataha Reef," the embassy said. The amount will cover a study to develop a technical plan for coral reef rehabilitation, it said.
Moreover, "in addition to compensation, the US government is planning a number of other activities which will underscore its commitment to Tubbataha's recovery and the protection of the marine resources of the Philippines," it added.
Among these activities include:
- Consultations with local coral reef conservation experts "to listen to concerns and discuss options for conservation and restoration of" Tubbataha
- Creation of a team led by US experts along with government agencies, park management, local marine scientists and NGOs to discuss "coral reef rehabilitation options" in Tubbataha
- Upgrade of the existing ranger station with possible installation of radar and communications equipment to avoid collisions and better monitor poaching activity
"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.
Latest reports by the local media said that one of the two lift cranes commissioned by the US Navy to begin the removal of the grounded minesweeper had arrived at the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park on Sunday.