MANILA – The US government may be asked to pay P24 million for damages a US Navy minesweeper ship caused to the Tubbataha Reef in Palawan after it ran aground last Thursday, the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) said Wednesday.
In an interview with ANC, TMO head Angelique Songco said: "If we’re talking about coral damage alone which is P12,000 per square meter, we're talking about over a million pesos. Restoration cost is a minimum of another P12,000 per square meter.”
She said the US government may be asked to pay P24,000 per square meter. Since it was earlier reported that at least 1,000 square meters of coral reefs were damaged by the USS Guardian, the amount will total to P24 million.
However, Songco said P24 million is still a small amount, considering that the Tubbataha Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
But she said she cannot do anything about it since it is the price indicated in the law.
"The truth is we've spent a lot more money and we're not only talking about money, we're talking about effort, we're talking about having risk, the lives of our people to guard that reef and I don't think P24 million is a fair price," she said.
"But that's the price that is indicated in the law and we can't change the price depending on who the person is violating the law,” Songco added.
She said the TMO is not planning to ask the US government more than P24 million. She said they only want the US Navy to be responsible enough when entering the country’s protected areas.
"We're not asking for anything more than what the law asks, it's just that they'll be accountable for the damage they've caused to the reef, that's all we ask."
"Because it's the same rule that we apply to anyone who happens to be in this predicament. We're not asking for anything more, we are right now asking for them to commit to recognizing their responsibility, and that we haven't gotten since day 1," she said.
Songco said she also believes that US officials are sincere with their discussions with the Philippine government. However, she noted that “sincere is not enough.”
"I get the impression, I've always had this impression that the team is doing its best. The Americans arrived last Saturday and they have been discussing the salvage operations with our local officials...And sincere naman sila. Of course, sincere is not enough." – With dzMM