Philippines to bill US $1.4 million for shipwreck reef damage


Crew members from the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior display a banner saying 'Save our reefs!' at the world famous Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the southern Philippines, 30 October 2005.



The Philippines is asking for $1.4 million from the US in compensation after the USS Guardian ran aground on the protected Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Tubbataha Management Office representative Angelique Songco told Al Jazeera she planned to send the US Embassy a letter billing the full amount next week, noting that the damage done by the warship spanned "at least" 2,345 square meters.

Read more from GlobalPost: US minesweeper runs aground in Philippines

"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," said Songco to AFP.

The USS Guardian first ran ashore on the UNESCO World Heritage site on January 17th, and had to be cut into pieces during removal to minimize damage to the reef.

The US Navy replied that "The Republic of the Philippines may submit to the Navy any and all information it believes relevant to determinations of coral reef damage," according to Al Jazeera.

Nationalist sentiment in the Philippines was stirred up by the incident, and Songco herself called the $1.4 million fine a mere "slap on the wrist" for the well-funded US military establishment, wrote the Philippine Daily Inquirer, although she reiterated that they would not ask for anything more.

WWW-Philippines vice chair and chief executive officer Jose Ma Lorenzo Tan told the Inquirer that 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."