Philippines asks U.S. to pay $1.4 million for reef damage

AFP-JIJI

The Philippines will ask the United States to pay 58 million pesos ($1.4 million) in compensation for damage caused by a U.S. warship to a protected coral reef.

The amount is based on studies by Philippine agencies, including the coast guard, that found the USS Guardian damaged at least 2,345 sq. meters of the protected Tubbataha reef, Angelique Songco, the park superintendent, said Saturday.

She said a letter requesting compensation will be sent to the U.S. Embassy this 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.

Earlier estimates said as much as 4,000 sq. meters of the reef had been destroyed when the USS Guardian minesweeper ran aground on Tubbataha on Jan. 17 but Songco said their studies found the damage was less than feared.

It took the salvage teams until March 29 to remove the last of the 68-meter-long USS Guardian, which had to be cut into pieces and lifted clear without damaging the reef further.

But Songco said Manila will 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.