US pays Philippines P87M for Tubbataha damage
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The United States has paid the Philippines P87.03 million ($1.97 million) for the damage that the American ship USS Guardian had inflicted on Tubbataha Reef.
The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed in a statement Wednesday, February 18, that "the Philippine government received from the US government the full requested amount of Php 87,033,570.71."
This is "compensation for the damage caused to Tubbataha Reef by the grounding of the USS Guardian," the DFA said.
The US paid this amount on January 20.
The DFA explained: "The compensation will be utilized for the protection and rehabilitation of Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Portions of the fund will also be used to further enhance capability to monitor the area and prevent similar incidents in the future."
"In addition to the compensation received, the US government is also providing additional assistance to the Philippine Coast Guard to upgrade the PCG Substation in Tubbataha," it said.
Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, welcomed the news about the compensation.
“The greater challenge now is the successful rehabilitation of the damaged portions of the Tubbataha Reef. We know that it would take longer time for the reef to fully recover and for the productive area to flourish again,” Legarda said in a statement.
The USS Guardian obliterated 2,345.67 square meters of coral reef when it crashed into Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, the world-famous marine park and protected area in Palawan province on January 17, 2013.
Environmentalists who had gone to the Supreme Court to force the government to demand compesation from the US had a higher estimate of damage: P737.8 million ($16.8 million) to P1.2 billion ($27 million).
The US Embassy, however, chose to negotiate directly with the Philippine government instead of entertaining petitions from other groups.
The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is considered the "crown jewel of Philippine seas" because of its rich marine life. – Rappler.com
US$1 = P44.25