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Philippines to bill US $1.4m for reef damage

Compensation demanded after US warship that struck Tubbataha in January damaged protected home to over 1,000 species.

Last Modified: 06 Apr 2013 11:59
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The USS Guardian was cut in to pieces during its removal after it struck the protected coral reef [AFP]

The Philippines will demand the US to pay $1.4m in compensation for damage caused by a US warship to a protected coral reef, according to the manager of the reef.

Angelique Songco who works for the Tubbataha Reef, a Unesco World Heritage site, said on Saturday she would send a letter to the US embassy next week requesting the amount.

She said the sum is required by a law passed to protect the reef, and is based on studies by Philippine agencies including the coast guard that found the USS Guardian damaged at least 2,345 square metres.

"We don't want to be dishonest. It is just a simple process: measure it correctly and then they pay. That is all. It is very straightforward," she told AFP news agency.

The USS Guardian hit the island on January 17, and it took salvage teams over two months to remove the last of it by cutting the warship into pieces so it could be lifted clear without damaging the reef further.

The incident stirred nationalist anger. 

Over 1,000 species inhabit the reef, including manta rays, lionfish and sea turtles.

The US Navy, which has apologised and removed crew members following the spat, said in a statement Saturday that it did not want to speculate about the liability but would coordinate with the Philippine government to assess the damage to the reef.

"The Republic of the Philippines may submit to the Navy any and all information it believes relevant to determinations of coral reef damage," the statement said.

The commanding officer and three crew of the USS Guardian were relieved of their duties over the grounding, the US Navy announced earlier this week.

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