PUERTO PRINCESA — U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg reiterated Thursday his government’s regret over the grounding of its Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM-5) in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) World Heritage Site last January, and said that until now they are awaiting for the Philippine government to send the “compensation request.”
Ambassador Goldberg, who has been in this city since Wednesday for an official visit involving United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported Advancing Philippine Competitiveness (Compete) projects, said the accidental stranding of the USS Guardian in the Philippine marine protected site off the Sulu Sea was something they are sorry for.
“We regret very much what happened and we’ve expressed that many times to the government of the Philippines as well as the people of the Philippines. It was an accident that we are very sorry it took place,” Goldberg said, adding they have taken on several things to resolve the results of the incident.
The first, he explained, was agreeing to do a review of what happened, which had already been completed with the Philippine government, to ensure it will not happen again.
Second, was holding the people responsible for the grounding accountable. “The people involved have received punishments as a result, and that’s very important,” he said.
The third was “going to great lengths” to remove the ship with minimal damage off the atoll, where it got beached.
“Lastly, there is the question of compensation, and we are awaiting for that compensation request from the Philippine government, and we will review it, and ah… we will review it, and ah… we are in the process of discussing it and that will come too. But ah… we will wait because that is a government-to-government matter. But we will address it also,” the Ambassador said.
In January 2013, the USS Guardian accidentally ran aground in the Tubbataha Reefs located about 130 kilometers southeast of Palawan province while making its way to Indonesia through the Sulu Sea.
Ten weeks after the whole minesweeper was carefully taken off the marine park on March 10, an assessment later conducted by marine experts placed the damage that the USS Guardian caused at U.S. $ 1.3 million involving 2,345.67 square meters of reef.
These damages have not yet been compensated as of press time.