MANILA, Philippines --- The Philippine government and marine experts will be conducting a joint assessment of the full extent of Tubbataha coral reef damage, following the completion of the US naval ship salvage operations.
The assessment team will be composed of November Romena and Elsa Furio from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) Park Supt. Angelique Songco, Dr. Maricor Soriano from National Institute of Physics, World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines (WWF-Philippines) Tubbataha Reefs Project Manager Marivel Dygico, and Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan, Dr. Cesar Villanoy, Miledel Quibilan, Patrick Cabaitan, Narida Eznairah and Norievill España from University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI).
''WWF lauds the composite team for the successful extrication of the USS Guardian. With the first step accomplished, we now move on to assessment,'' WWF-Philippines vice chairman and chief operating officer Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan said.
''The results will give us an objective basis for the fines that must be collected not just to expedite reef recovery but to upgrade our capacity to conserve our country's most productive reef system,'' he added.
Under Republic Act (RA) 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009, a fine of about US$300 or P12,000 per square meter is mandatory, in addition to at least US$300 per square meter for rehabilitation efforts. If the damaged area covers 4,000 square meters, total fines might exceed US$5 million or P200 million.
Songco noted that this is not the first grounding incident in the park, but all the previous cases have been settled with the appropriate fines for the damages.