Release of P87M for Tubbataha Damage Now Up to PHNewsroom
The date as to when the United States government will release the P87 million as compensation for the damage sustained by the Tubbataha Reef is now up to the government, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said.
“That depends, as the documentation is with the Philippines,” Ambassador Goldberg said.
Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier announced that the US had agreed to pay the Philippines P87 million after the United States Navy’s minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground at Tubbataha Reef, inflicting damaging over 2,300 square meters of the protected marine sanctuary in the Sulu Sea.
The incident happened on January 17, 2013. Experts say it will take decades for the coral reef to recover.
“I think it’s important to appreciate the various steps that we have taken together with the Philippines to deal with the event,” Amb. Goldberg said in a press conference about exploring further collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology.
“First is that we were very sorry for what happened, initially and throughout. Secondly, we launched an investigation and shared information on what happened, and the people who were responsible have also been reprimanded as a result,” Amb. Goldberg said.
“Third, we went to great lengths and great expense, as we should, in these circumstances to remove the ship, cut it in parts, and to make sure that further damage was not done.”
As towing away the grounded ship would cause further damage to the area, the ship was hauled away piece by piece, a process that took over two months.
“The last part is compensation, and, as you know, an offer has been made after consultation on what was appropriate and the final documentation is being prepared to put that into effect,” Amb. Goldberg explained.
“We are also looking at additional ways and additional cooperation that we can offer so that these kind of things do not happen again,” Amb. Goldberg added.
Nevertheless, Goldberg said, the US side is already in the final stages of providing compensation, though he did not cite a specific timetable for the release of the P87 million.
“As you know, it took a while for the request to get to us. We are just working through the documentation and the other kinds of legal documents that are necessary to put it into effect,” Goldberg said. ”I think we’ve acted responsibly,” Goldberg added.
More than expected
In a separate report from ABS-CBN News, an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the P87 million the US government promised to pay for the damage a US vessel inflicted on Tubbataha Reef had exceeded their expectation.
Director Mundita Lim of the Biodiversity Management Bureau, an attached agency of the DENR, said the Protected Areas Management Bureau had requested for P58 million as compensation.
“We welcome that. The amount after all is being requested more for regular monitoring of the damaged area to make sure it recovers naturally, and not for active restoration which is not necessary in Tubbataha,” Ms. Lim said.
She explained that Tubbataha still maintains rich marine biodiversity that makes it more resilient than other coral reef areas.
“So for now, the amount seems sufficient for the identified purpose, and augments already existing efforts in the area. We just need to make sure the full amount is spent fully for the intended activities for the protection of Tubbataha,” she added.