Philippines asking $1.4 M from US for Tubbataha Reef damage


In this photo taken on March 30, 2013, and released by the Philippine Coast Guard on Monday, April 1, 2013, the stern of the USS Guardian, a U.S. Navy minesweeper, is transferred to another ship after being lifted out of the water at the Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage site, in the Tubbataha National Marine Park, southwest of the Philippines. Tubbataha park superintendent Angelique Songco said the fine for damaging the protected coral reef would be about 24,000 pesos ($600) per square meter, so the U.S. could be facing a fine of more than $2 million. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines will ask the United States to pay P58 million ($1.4 million) in compensation for damage caused by a US warship to the Tubbataha Reef, the manager of the protected reef said Saturday.

The amount is based on studies by Philippine agencies including the coast guard that found the USS Guardian damaged at least 2,345 square meters (25,240 square feet) of the reef, said park superintendent Angelique Songco.

“[The fine of] $1.4 million is but a slap on the wrist, as the salvage operation has been estimated to cost close to $45 million,” she said.

Songco said a letter requesting compensation would be sent to the US embassy next week, stressing this is the amount required by a law passed to protect the reef, a Unesco World Heritage site in a remote area of the Sulu Sea.

“We don’t want to be dishonest. It is just a simple process: measure it correctly and then they pay. That is all. It is very straightforward,” she said.

A team of divers and researchers from the TMO and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Philippines just finished assessing the full damage of the January 17 grounding of the USS Guardian, which got stuck in the World Heritage Site located in middle of the Sulu Sea.

Salvors finished extricating the ship, which had to be dismantled piece by piece, on March 30.

According to the report of the assessment team, “results indicate the damaged area spans 2,345.67 square meters – smaller than the 4,000 square meters originally estimated by an American team,” WWF-Philippines said in a statement.

Under Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009, a fine of about $600 or P24,000 per square meter of damaged reef is mandatory.

“Further park rule violations boosted the final total to slightly less than P60 million, or roughly $1.4 million,” the organization said.

WWF-Philippines vice-chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan said the fine to be paid to TMO should help it build “a significant endowment fund to sustain its operations through the years.”

“The basic issue here is not tourism. It is food security. This fresh infusion of funds will allow TMO to concentrate on putting the money to good use – from building a better Ranger Station to upgrading their capacity to manage the country’s most productive coral reef,” he said.

“Let us settle what must be settled, learn what must be learned, and move forward,” Tan said.

It took the salvage teams until March 29 to remove the last of the 223-foot (68-meter) USS Guardian, which had to be cut into pieces so it could be lifted clear without damaging the reef further.

The incident stirred nationalist anger with demands that the United States pay a large amount of compensation for damaging the reef, which is world renowned for its rich marine life.

But Songco said they would only ask for the required amount based on the affected area.

“I am not worried about criticism (for the small amount). We are not trying to put one over them and we hope they will do the same with us,” she said.

She said the last of the salvage ships had left Tubbataha but a team of US Navy divers and a US vessel remained in the area, assessing the damage.

The United States has apologized for the mishap and said it would cooperate in addressing the damage.

The commanding officer and three crew of the USS Guardian were relieved of their duties over the grounding, the US Navy announced earlier this week.

The Tubbataha Reef Natural Park lies at the center of the Sulu Sea. It protects almost 100,000 hectares of high-quality marine habitats containing three atolls and a large area of deep sea.

Home to whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles and Napoleon wrasse, the park supports more than 350 species of coral and almost 500 species of fish. For this, it has been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

The reserve also protects one of the few remaining colonies of breeding seabirds in the region, according to Unesco.

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  • $18209031

    Also reveal the names of the ship’s officers and how they look. These are the arrogant decisionmakers of the time who refused to heed advise from theTubbathata Reef Authority when they were near the area.

  • Hey_Dudes

    Kani-kaninong bulsa na naman kaya mapupunta itong milyones na ito?

  • Concur_Dissent

    $1.4 M is indeed a slap on the wrist…. The government should have tucked in an additional $2.8 M as PUNITIVE PENALTY….. Do people think that $1.4M is enough to discourage US Navy adventurism in the area? Come on…

    • kanoy

      Greenpeace fined for reef damage
      Greenpeace divers were inspecting Tubbataha’s reefs for damage
      Environmental group Greenpeace has been fined almost $7,000 (P280,000) for damaging a coral reef at a World Heritage site in the Philippines.
      Their flagship Rainbow Warrior II ran aground at Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, in the Sulu Sea, 650km (400 miles) south-east of Manila.
      Park officials said almost 100 sq m (1,076 sq ft) of reef had been damaged.
      Greenpeace agreed to pay the fine, but blamed the accident on outdated maps provided by the Philippines government.
      “The chart indicated we were a mile and a half” from the coral reef when the ship ran aground, regional Greenpeace official Red Constantino told AFP news agency.
      “This accident could have been avoided if the chart was accurate,” he said, adding, however, that Greenpeace felt “responsible” for the damage.

      • Concur_Dissent

        let me educate you kanoy, an innacurate chart can never be used as a defence anywhere in the world… do you know this fact? Are you aware that the coastline of the Philippines is wider than the coastlines of great britain, korea and vietnam COMBINED? Additionally, it is not only the Philippines that has old charts given that the most accurate charts nowadays were re-mapped using technology which were not available 20 – 30 years ago….. and even with those new maps, there are still map tolerance/allowances

        You’re so incensed that greenpeace got off lightly compared to your minesweeper? Simple answer, your minesweeper has the top of the line sonar beacons, GPS and electronic charts as compared to the greenpeace which is essentially a sailboat with a motor that is older than OBAMA… How much damage can a sailboat make compared to a 1,500 tonner minesweeper ship? Have you even done your assignment?

  • Radeon Blue

    600 million pesos is nothing to the USA. Philex mines was fined 1 Billion pesos and it was able to pay-up. Question is, can the government collect?

  • hu_yu

    balato na lang po sa amin

  • boybakal

    $1.4 million reef damage….that is too much.
    Filipinos have damaged not only the reef by dynamite but also damage the sea, ocean, rivers, shores, canals by their garbage.
    $1.4 million….too much garbage.

  • wawa2172

    Masyado namang mura ang Tubbataha Reef damage. Mas mahal pa yata ang pag salvage sa USS Guardian kaysa sa nasirang reef na hundred of years na nabubuo. Barya-barya lang ang hiningi nang Pinas, kaya na aabuso nang matindi.

  • Walter Ziobro

    Will the Sultan of Sulu present a bill, too?

  • $18209031

    Gusto lang kasi mag scuba diving ang mga puti noong nangyari ito. At mangingisda sila para may pang sugba. Its the most expensive frolicking in martime history.

  • Joe Kano

    US should gladly pay the fine and simply deduct it from any future aid.

    “Activists” and opportunist politicians should shut up and go away.

    Singco should clarify whether it is true that her rangers warned Guardian before the accident, as she has publicly claimed. If she was arrogant and mistaken, she should come clean and publicly apologize.

    The money should be used to restore the reef and establish aids to navigation to prevent any future mishaps.

    Tubbataha bosses should make their private hacienda more accessible to the masa, along with education about the need to preserve all reefs and ensure healthy ecosystems and food supplies.

    PH should start paying real attention to environmental protection and hold EVERYONE accountable, before it’s too late.

    PH media should consider how whiny sensationalism and superficial nationalist garbage really does harm the nation.

    There’s still a lot of good that can come from this whole mess.

    • Concur_Dissent

      Kano, don’t worry too much about our environment. You may be enraged about our culture and how we deal with our environment…but not as much as we are wondering how your society created children who on an almost regular basis, go to school and gun down classmates and teachers….what’s with that? Never heard anything like this in the Philippines…

      • Joe Kano

        Typical shifting of topic to avoid unpleasant truth and responsibility.

      • Concur_Dissent

        “to avoid unpleasant truth”? tsk tsk tsk… no wonder… children killing children in america is PLEASANT!

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