Sunday, February 3, 2013

Aside from paying fines, U.S. to also donate P4.1 million to help restore corals in Tubbataha

From InterAksyon (Feb 3): Aside from paying fines, U.S. to also donate P4.1 million to help restore corals in Tubbataha

Aside from paying fines for the damage it caused to Tubbataha Reef, the United States government will also provide P4.1 million (US$100,000) to help restore the corals in the world heritage site, 1,000 square meters of which was destroyed when the USS Guardian minesweeper ran aground on the marine park off Palawan on January 17.

“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.,” said a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Manila released on Sunday.

“In addition to compensation, the U.S. 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.

In an interview last month with, Roel C. Alargon, a researcher for the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO), said it would take a year for one millimeter of the mostly hard corals damaged in Tubbataha’s south atoll to grow back and about 250 years for a meter of the corals to mature.

The U.S. government said the $100,000-assistance would be granted to a Philippine university “to support coral restoration research” at Tubbataha through United States Agency for International for International Development’s Coral Triangle Support Partnership.

“As soon as practicable, a U.S. 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 statement said.

The U.S. team, which “is being formed now,” will help in assessing the damage done to the corals and “remediation options.” It will coordinate with the TMO and other concerned Philippine government agencies, non-government organizations, and scientific experts from Philippine universities.

Moreover, the U.S. government said it would offer to fund 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,” the U.S. government said.

It said it was also willing to share its hydrographic survey data with the Philippine National Mapping and Resource Information Authority to help “improve cartographic information available on Tubbataha protected area and environs.”

The U.S. government said it “recognizes that biodiversity conservation is a priority, a priority that is reflected in the Assistance Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America for Environment, Water, and Climate Change. The U.S. Government also believes it should be a priority under the U.S. Philippines Bilateral Science and Technology Agreement that took effect in October 2012."

“The Tubbataha Reef accident 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,” it added.

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