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Lawmakers: Fine too small for reef damage

April 8, 2013 at 11:34 AM   |   Comments

MANILA, April 8 (UPI) -- Two Philippine lawmakers say the United States should pay more than a $1.4 million fine for damage done to a world-class reef by a grounded U.S. minesweeper.

An author of a law to protect the Tubbataha Reef says the government should have assessed higher penalties on the U.S. Navy, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Monday.

Former Sen. Jamby Madrigal, who was largely responsible for drafting the Tubbataha Reefs National Park Act in 2009, said the fine "is loose change compared to the long-term damage to the reef."

She said "offenders must be taught hard lessons" because restoring the damaged area of the reef "would take years."

Sen. Loren Legarda, who heads of the Senate environmental committee, demanded in a statement the country's Department of Justice fully assess how much the fine should be. Legarda said U.S. accountability wasn't limited to monetary damages set forth in the law.

However, officials in the administration of President Benigno Aquino III said they were satisfied with the amount.

The law prescribes fines totaling $1,200 for rehabilitation of every square meter of damaged reef.

The USS Guardian damaged more than 2,300 square meters, or about 0.6 acre, when it grounded on the World Heritage reef in January, experts said.

The U.S. Navy is cutting the minesweeper into pieces and removing it from the reef after attempts to pull the vessel off the coral were unsuccessful.

Tubbataha park superintendent Angelique Songco estimated cost of the salvage operation at $45 million.

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