MANILA, Philippines -- An all-Filipino team will assess the damage done to the World Heritage-site Tubbataha Reef after salvage teams were able to finally extricate the last piece of the US Navy minesweeper that got stuck there in January 17.
Already, an estimated P200 million or $5 million is expected to be recovered.
The Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) earlier estimated the reef damage at around 4,000 square meters but an assessment team will still have to check this.
The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009 provides a mandatory fine of about $300 or P12,000 per square meter plus another $300 or so per square meter for rehabilitation efforts.
The assessment team is composed of TMO park superintendent Angelique Songco; Dr. Maricor Soriano from the National Institute of Physics; World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines Tubbataha Reefs project manager Marivel Dygico; Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan, Dr. Cesar Villanoy, Miledel Quibilan, Patrick Cabaitan, Narida Eznairah and Norievill España from University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute; and November Romena and Elsa Furio from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
“WWF lauds the composite team for the successful extrication of the USS Guardian. With the first step accomplished, we now move on to assessment,” WWF-Philippines vice-chairman and chief executive Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan said in a statement.
“The results will give us an objective basis for the fines that must be collected not just to expedite reef recovery but to upgrade our capacity to conserve our country’s most productive reef system,” he added.
For her part, TMO’s Songco noted that this is not the first grounding incident in Tubbataha and all previous cases paid the appropriate fines for damages.
"We will not ask for anything more than what the law requires. We wish only for the US Navy to be responsible enough when entering our protected areas. However, we are quite confident that the United States Navy – an institution long held in high esteem for its strict adherence to honor and duty – shall honor the rule of law,” Songco said.