MANILA, Philippines -- The United States government has assured long-term commitment to the Philippine government after its minesweeper ran aground in Tubbataha, including the rehabilitation and protection of the World Heritage site.
In a statement, the US said the accident in Tubbataha “focuses renewed attention on this goal and offers opportunities for future bilateral cooperation in science and technology that reflect our long-standing shared commitment to the protection of the marine resources of the Philippines.”
While a crane ship will soon start working on the extrication of the USS Guardian, a US interdisciplinary scientific team is also now being formed to initiate discussions with the government to review coral reef rehabilitation options in Tubbataha.
The plans are on top of the compensation the US will be paying.
The US embassy will organize in the next two week a roundtable with local coral reef conservation experts to listen to concerns and discuss options for conservation and restoration of the Tubbataha Reef. Invitees will include the US Agency for International Development, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, Philippine agencies, and the Tubbataha Management Office.
Already, the USAID's Coral Triangle Support Partnership will be granting a P4.1 million (US$100,000) to a Philippine university to support coral restoration research at Tubbataha Reef.
The US government will also provide the funding for 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.
In an effort to improve cartographic information available on Tubbataha protected area and environs, the US will also share hydrographic survey data with the Philippines National Mapping and Resource Information Authority.
“Coral reefs in the Philippines, including the Tubbataha Reef, are some of the most important biodiversity centers in the world, and helping the Philippines conserve these remarkable resources is a long-standing commitment of the United States Government,” it said.
Over the past decade, the US has invested more than P1.9 billion (US$46.5 million) to support marine biodiversity conservation programs in the Philippines, it said.