Manila: The United States said it will provide additional funds to restore coral structure in the Tubbataha Reef that was damaged by the January 17 grounding of one of its navy ships transiting the protected area.
In a statement released on Sunday, the US Embassy said it would provide $100,000 (Dh367,000) for the restoration of the reef which was damaged when the minesweeper USS Guardian’s hull grazed the coral growth.
The Tubbataha Reef, which is located in the Sulu Sea is recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site due to its importance in supporting ecology in the area.
“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,” the US Embassy statement said.
“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 statement added.
Earlier, President Benigno Aquino demanded that the US government compensate the Philippines for the damage caused by the incident.
The USS Guardian was transiting the area after coming from a Subic Bay in Zambales when the incident occurred.
Experts said the incident had damaged some 1,000 square metres of coral reef. These natural structures support marine life.
“As soon as practicable, a US interdisciplinary scientific team will initiate discussions with the Government of the Philippines to review coral reef rehabilitation options in Tubbataha, based on assessments by Philippine-based marine scientists,” the embassy statement said.
Aside from this the US government said it would provide funds for a survey for 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,” the Embassy statement said.
Earlier, the US Navy said that a salvage team it had deployed to take part in removing the ship from the area, had successfully removed fuel oil from the stricken vessel.
The embassy said the US Navy ship salvage and maritime architecture experts continue to develop the salvage plan and work to reinforce the structure of the ship to reduce the strain due to waves.
The incident had caused a minor strain in relations between the two allies and could alter future navigation issues involving US vessels passing through Philippine Sea territory.