MANILA (AFP) – The United States has paid nearly $2 million compensation to the Philippines for the damage a US warship caused to a protected reef, Manila said Wednesday.
The minesweeper USS Guardian became stranded on the Tubbataha Reef in January 2013 after visiting a Philippine port, and had to be cut to pieces to avoid further damage to the World Heritage site in a salvage operation that took 10 weeks.
The ship damaged 2,345 square metres of the coral reef that investigators said would take a generation to re-grow.
The incident stirred nationalist anger against the United States, a former colonial ruler of the Philippines that remains the Southeast Asian nation’s most important military ally.
Washington promptly apologised for the mishap and issued a report five months later that blamed the captain and three other officers.
The vessel, which was en route to Indonesia after visiting a northern Philippine port, was found to have sailed into a protected area where marine vessels are not allowed due to “poor voyage planning”, according to a copy of the report.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Philippine foreign department said it received last month “the full requested amount” of 87 million pesos ($1.97 million) in compensation.
“The compensation will be utilised for the protection and rehabilitation of Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” it said in a statement.
Part of the money will also be used to enhance monitoring activities in the area to prevent similar incidents in the future, it added.a