The Philippine government has confirmed that the US has paid $1.97 million in compensation for the world-famous Tubbataha Reef it damaged.
"The compensation will be utilized for the protection and rehabilitation of Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Portions of the fund will also be used to further enhance [our] capability to monitor the area and prevent similar incidents in the future," the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Wednesday.
Aside from the compensation, the US government will provide assistance to the Philippine Coast Guard to upgrade the Coast Guard substation at the reef.
On January 17, 2013, USS Guardian minesweeper ran aground at the South Atoll of the Tubbataha Reef, damaging at least 2,345.67 square meters of the coral reef area.
Salvage crews needed 10 weeks to dismantle the vessel piece by piece to prevent further damage to the area.
Tubbataha Management Office park manager Angelique Songco said the amount would cover both the P58.4-million ($1.32 mln) fine imposed by the Philippine government for the restoration of the marine park and the expenses the Philippine Coast Guard incurred during the salvage operations.
Earlier in October, the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said that the announced US government compensation for the damage of the World Heritage Site is not enough.
The fine levied against the US should be 12 times the initial estimate of the Philippine government, Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes then announced in a press statement.
"Five years ago, under similar circumstances, the US Navy paid the state of Hawaii a total of $15 million for restoration and settlement, for damage to an Oahu reef; which while larger than Tubbataha, has not been identified as a World Heritage Site. In our petition, we cited that Tubbataha’s biodiversity concentration is 2.3 times more than that of the Hawaii reef," he added.
The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a protected area of the Philippines located in the middle of Sulu Sea. The marine and bird sanctuary consists of two huge atolls, named the North Atoll and South Atoll, and the smaller Jessie Beazley Reef covers a total area of 374.6 sq m.
In December 1993, the UNESCO declared the Tubbataha Reefs National Park a World Heritage Site, as a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species.