US to Pay Philippines $1.9 Million for Navy Ship Ramming Into Pristine Reef

The Philippines said Friday that the United States has agreed to pay $1.9 million in compensation for damage a U.S. Navy minesweeper caused to a pristine coral reef last year.

“I received correspondence just yesterday that the U.S. has agreed to pay the compensation,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said at a Senate committee hearing.

In January 2013, the USS Guardian rammed into and got stranded in the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park after reportedly ignoring warnings from park rangers, causing damage to over 2,300 square miles of the park. The ship remained stuck in the reef for over two months, and had to be cut into pieces to be extricated.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the park website describes it as being at the heart of the global center of marine biodiversity.

The fine officials had previously announced was $1.5 million, an amount denounced by critics as “a slap on the wrist” for the U.S. and “loose change compared to the long-term damage to the reef.”

The $1.9 million is still far less than the $16.8 to $27 million fine environmental groups had said was due in a petition to the Philippine’s Supreme Court .

Their petition demanded not only financial compensation for the reef-ramming but also environmental rehabilitation and prosecution of the Navy personnel involved in the incident.

In addition, it took a year and a half after the incident for the Philippines to submit its request for compensation to the United States, which environmental groups and one of the petitioners, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), said was a sign the Philippines was helping the U.S. dodge real accountability for its environmental crime and violation of sovereignty.


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The Tubbataha transgression is not an isolated incident, Kalikasan PNE has stated, as defense agreements between the two nations and pending trade agreements “perpetuate climate injustice” and increase violations of Philippine sovereignty while increasing militarism in the region.

Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalikasan PNE, stated earlier this year that “the increasing interventionism of U.S. troops in the Asia-Pacific region completes their pincer approach to its pursuit mainly of fossil fuel reserves in the East Asian waters and other territories.”

“U.S. militarism is part of its fossil fuel-hungry drive in the Asia-Pacific region that damages and pollutes the environment, as we have seen in the grounding of a U.S. warship in the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park. This in turn worsens the vulnerabilities of our grassroots communities to disasters and other climate change impacts,” Dulce stated.

The military relationship between the U.S. and Philippines has been under heated scrutiny since a U.S. Marine’s alleged killing of a transgender woman, Jennifer Laude, this month.

As Common Dreams reported this week:

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