The United States government has unveiled a package of targetted assistance, including a P4 million grant for coral restoration research, for the Tubbataha Reef which has been damaged by a US Navy minesweeper that got grounded on the protected site on Jan. 17.
“In view of the damage caused by the USS Guardian accident at Tubbataha Reef, the United States has expressed its regrets and is prepared to provide appropriate compensation to the Republic of the Philippines.
In addition to compensation, the US government is planning a number of other activities which will underscore its commitment to Tubbataha’s recovery and the protection of the marine resources of the Philippines,” the US embassy said in a statement yesterday.
Meantime, one of the two crane ships contracted by the US Navy from a salvor company in Singapore arrived in Palawan Sunday morning. The crane ship was expected to sail to Tubbataha last night, while the dismantling of the USS Guardian may begin on Wednesday.
“But this is just the small one. We’re expecting the bigger one [soon],” the Philippine Coast Guard said.
The damaged corals at Tubbataha already spanned an area of over 4,000 square meters, worse than the initial estimate of 1,000 sqm., according to Tubbataha marine park manager Angelique Songco,
In the next two weeks, the US Embassy said it will organize a roundtable with local coral reef conservation experts to listen to concerns and discuss options for conservation and restoration of the Tubbataha Reef.
The discussion will include representatives from the US Agency for International Development, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, relevant Philippine government agencies, and the Tubbataha Management Office.
Through USAID’s Coral Triangle Support Partnership, P4.1 million will be granted to a Philippine university to support coral restoration research at Tubbataha Reef.
As soon as practicable, a US interdisciplinary scientific team will initiate discussions with the Philippine government to review coral reef rehabilitation options in Tubbataha, based on assessments by Philippine-based marine scientists.
The US government will also offer to fund a site survey for proposed improvements to the existing ranger station on Tubbataha Reef.
Proposals could include the installation of radar and communications equipment that can assist Park Rangers and Philippine Coast Guard in avoiding collisions and keeping tabs on marine poachers. With Florante Solmerin
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