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US Navy ship accident raises concern for Philippine coral reef

MANILA, Philippines – A US Navy ship was stuck for the second day Friday on a coral reef in the western Philippines, amid growing concern about damage to the World Heritage Site, officials said.

The minesweeper USS Guardian run aground at the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a World Heritage Site off Palawan province, 600 kilometres south of Manila, before dawn on Thursday.

A support vessel has arrived at the area to help the ship’s crew, while the Philippine Coast Guard is closely monitoring situation, said Major Oliver Banaria, a military-civil relations commander in the Philippine armed forces.

“A civilian support vessel is now with the US Navy ship,” he said. “We are also on standby if they need additional assistance.”

Banaria said the extent of the damage on the reef could only be determined after the Guardian has been removed, but environmentalists are worried the damage could be extensive.

“It is severely disheartening to hear that a US ship ran aground on the reef and has reportedly caused considerable damage to the corals in the area,” said Senator Loren Legarda, a staunch environmental advocate.

“We will be monitoring these developments closely to make sure that those who must be held accountable will comply, with possible penalties. Guards patrolling the area should also be sources of vital information,” she added.

The Philippines imposes a fine of 300 dollars per square metre of corals that are damaged in such accidents.

In the 2005, environment group Greenpeace was fined almost 7,000 dollars when its ship ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef. The group said an inaccurate maritime chart led to the incident.
 

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