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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, August 20, 2018

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US likely to pay $1.5 mn for damage to Philippine reef

U.S. Navy and Philippine marine

Share on Facebook April 10, 2013, Reporter : Big News Network, Reader : 505

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MANILA - The U.S. government is likely to pay $1.5 million in fines to the Philippines for damage caused to a coral reef that is a UNESCO World Heritage site, when a US navy minesweeper ran aground on it in January.

The USS Guardian damaged 2,346 square meters (25,252 square feet) of Tubbataha Reef after it ran aground January 17.

The United States owes $1.5 million in fines, the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board said in a posting on the Tubbahata Reefs Natural Park website Monday. The fines are based on the amount of reef that has been damaged, the state-run Philippine News Agency reported, according to CNN.

The Tubbahata board said the damage estimate was made by a team of U.S. Navy and Philippine marine biologists from Wednesday to Friday.

The original survey was conducted January 27 while the warship was still on the reef.

Last week, four Navy officers of the USS Guardian were relieved of their duties. (BNN)

Initial findings showed that the men, including their commanding officer, had not followed standard procedure, according to a Navy statement

After the vessel ran aground, the Navy was left with no other option than to cut the ship into pieces to remove it from the water.

The Guardian was completely removed on March 30 after the ship's stern, the last of four sections into which its 224-foot-long hull had been cut, was lifted from the reef by a massive seagoing crane.

"Using aerial imaging, the grounding zone was originally outlined using the ship's length as the basis for computing the total damaged area. This image was later observed to be obliquely angled thus artificially expanding the area plotted on mapping software," the statement on the park's website said.

The cost of the salvage operation to remove the ship from the reef was $45 million, Stars and Stripes reported Monday, citing a U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman.

Tubbahata Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is home to about 500 species of fish and 350 species of coral as well as whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles and breeding seabirds.

Meanwhile, another vessel, this time Chinese, ran aground at the marine protected area in Palawan.

A report from Tubbataha parks superintendent Angelique Songco said the Chinese fishing vessel aground some 1.1 nautical miles east of the Tubbataha Reef ranger station.

The fishing vessel had 12 crew members, allegedly Chinese poachers.

The Philippine Coast Guard said the incident occurred shortly before midnight Tuesday.

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