Military

Iran Press TV

Manila forces US to compensate for reef damage

Iran Press TV

Sun Mar 31, 2013 1:39PM GMT

The Philippines has pressured Washington to pay compensation for environmental damage caused when a US minesweeper ran aground in a UNESCO-listed World Heritage coral reef in the Southeast Asian country's waters.

The statement came on Sunday after the USS Guardian has been completely removed, after being stuck for 10 weeks, in the Tubbataha reef located in a remote area of the Sulu Sea.

'We maintain there must be accountability and we will enforce our existing laws,' said Herminio Coloma, a spokesman for President Benigno Aquino.

He added, 'We will adopt needed measures to prevent a repetition (of the incident).'

Initial investigation showed that the 68-meter (223-foot) vessel has damaged about 4,000 square meters (43,055 square feet) of the reef when it ran aground on January 17, while en route to Indonesia.

The Tubbataha reef is a protected marine park under the Philippine law and only research and tourism vessels approved by the government are allowed to enter the sea sanctuary.

According to officials, fines up to USD 585 can be imposed for damaging every square meter of the reef.

Washington has not given a clear explanation for why the naval vessel ran aground on January 17 in an area that the Philippines' officials have said is clearly visible in any map.

The incident has revived debate about a controversial agreement, which allows US military presence in the country.

CAH/PR



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