US pays P87 million for Tubbataha damage
Camille Diola, Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 18, 2015 - 5:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — Washington last month turned over P87.033 million in compensation for the damage caused by the stranded United States Navy vessel to Tubbataha Reef in 2013.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Wednesday that Manila has received the payment for the grounding of the minesweeper USS Guardian and has lined up projects where the funds will be alloted for.

"The compensation will be utilized for the protection and rehabilitation of Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site," the DFA said in a statement.

"Portions of the fund will also be used to further enhance capability to monitor the area and prevent similar incidents in the future," it added.

Besides the compensation, the US government is also extending assistance for the upgrade of the Philippine Coast Guard substation watching over the reef.

The minesweeper was stranded in the protected marine area in January 2013, causing a wide swath of damage on the reef extending up to 2,300 square meters. The ship was then decommissioned and cut up in March that year.

The Tubbataha Management Office (TMO), meanwhile, welcomed the announcement on the US compensation for the damage caused by the grounding incident.

"We are happy that they already paid but we have not received a formal notice from the formal government," said Tubbataha Management Office park manager Angelique Songco.

When asked whether the delay in the payment had hampered the restoration of the reef, Songco said: "We could have done something with the money. We could have improved management with the money."

'Dream' for Tubbataha

Songco said they want to place the money in an endowment fund to sustain their operations. She noted that the TMO does not get regular state funding for the management of the park.

"If our bosses will allow it, our dream is to place the money in an endowment fund and then we will just get the interest from the fund every year," Songco said.

"If we do that, the benefits from the fund will be long term rather than spend it at once but you won’t have anything left for maintenance," she added.

Songco said the TMO sometimes receives money from some agencies and provincial governments.

"We have to wait every year for funds. We use the money paid by tourists to support our operations," she said.

"If we have an endowment fund, life will be easier for us." 

The Tubbataha reef spans 130,028 hectares and has been named a World Heritage Site because of its extensive coral network. - with Leslie Anne Mahusay

ANGELIQUE SONGCO DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS LESLIE ANNE MAHUSAY PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD SONGCO TUBBATAHA TUBBATAHA MANAGEMENT OFFICE TUBBATAHA REEF TUBBATAHA REEF NATURAL PARK WORLD HERITAGE SITE
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