US vows full payment for reef damage


US Secretary of State John Kerry and Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario pose for a photo prior to talks at the Department of State in Washington on Tuesday. AFP

US Secretary of State John Kerry has restated his government’s regrets over the grounding of a US Navy warship on the protected Tubbataha Reefs and assured the Philippines of full cooperation in the investigation of the incident.

Kerry has also assured the Philippines of full compensation for the damage caused by the grounding of the USS Guardian on the marine sanctuary in a remote corner of the Sulu Sea.

The new US secretary of state gave the assurances to the Philippines during his meeting with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario in Washington on Tuesday.

Del Rosario also assured the Filipino public that “every effort will be made to obtain proper compensation” for the damage to Tubbataha, initially estimated to be at around 4,000 square meters.

The two countries are conducting separate investigations of the incident. A team of investigators from the Philippine Coast Guard is flying to Japan “to examine documentary and physical evidence as well as meet with the US investigating team,” Del Rosario said.


But Guardian’s crewmen have refused to face Filipino investigators, officials said earlier.

Under the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009, fines for damage to the reefs could reach up to $300 for every square meter plus another $300 for every square meter for rehabilitation.

If the estimated 4,000 square meters of damaged reef is correct, the US Navy is facing a fine of $5 million, or P200 million, in the Philippines.

The US government has said it will pay full compensation and help finance the rehabilitation of Tubbataha, world-famous for its magnificent corals and marine life and, according to international divers, rivals Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.


Ship out after 10 weeks

The Guardian ran aground on Tubbataha on Jan. 17. To avoid further damage to the reef, the US Navy hired a Singapore-based salvor company to cut up the 68-meter, 1,600-ton minesweeper and take the parts to a US naval base in Sasebo, Japan. After 10 weeks, the salvage operation was completed on Saturday.

“With the ship off the reef, our teams will be carrying out a joint assessment of the damage, after which more detailed discussions will be held on the appropriate as well as timely compensation,” Del Rosario said.

He said both the Philippine and US governments were “thankful that in removing the USS Guardian, no further damage was done to the reef.”

“We both agreed that it is important to understand what happened and to take the necessary navigational safety measures to protect the reef and that would prevent other ships from grounding there,” he said.


‘Classic US double-talk’

The joint damage assessment involving Philippine and US agencies will start on April 8, Del Rosario added.

The grounding has raised a howl among concerned groups in the Philippines, which pressed US accountability and criticized the government for allowing the ship’s crew to return to their base in Japan without an investigation.

The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Wednesday said Kerry’s statements were “classic Washington double-talk.”

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said Philippine investigators could not even interview the crew of the Guardian.

“Our investigation will only go so far as the US Navy wants it to. It is utterly shameful,” Reyes said.


Ties that bind

Del Rosario said the Philippine and US governments agreed that the incident should not affect long-standing ties between the two countries.

“We also both agreed that we would not let this incident delay or derail our efforts to deepen our security cooperation, including plans to increase the rotational presence of US forces in the Philippines to help build the defense capacity and increase the maritime domain awareness of the Philippines,” Del Rosario said.

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  • calixto909

    A welcome sign to express to the whole world that indeed USA isn’t a bellicose country like China but instead a true bastion of democratic principles bent to spread harmony among nations. To their detractors, these political fronts of the CPP/NPA-=-we filipinos should stop voting for them this election day since they are the menace to our democracy.

  • Jack Bw

    The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Wednesday said Kerry’s statements were “classic Washington double-talk.”

    The pot calling the kettle black

    • BIGButo

      Bayan will say anything anti American

  • Joe Kano

    Here we go again. How many times does the US have to say it? Why does media keep harping on this non-issue? Why should anyone care about Bayan making yet another robotic propaganda statement?

    • band1do

      I agree. Bayan loves giving attention, yet i wonder if in the halls of this newspaper do lurk pro-bayan reporters?

      • BIGButo

        yes there are some Bayan reporters working at this newspaper

    • kilawon(the return)

      dumbass! this is a big issue! imagine! it would take 200 years to restore that reef ! all those dumbass american navy could not even navigate safely in shallow waters! tell your american stop terrorizing other nations! go home clowns!

      • BIGButo

        Shut up leftis dumbass. You don’t know what you are talking about. Have you been to the reef? There is very little damage to the reef fool.

      • kilawon(the return)

        keep on a$$licking slave !

  • joboni96

    face pilipino laws

    kaya lang nag mcarthur na
    tumakbo na

    thanks to collaborators in the government
    and bwisiting forces agreement


    • BIGButo

      Please shut up crazy man. Get your head fixed you are confused

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