Oct 24, 9:29 AM EDT

US to compensate Philippines for coral reef damage

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- The United States will pay the Philippines 87 million pesos ($1.9 million) for damage caused by a U.S. Navy minesweeper that ran aground on a protected coral reef last year, an official said Friday.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told a legislative hearing that the U.S. had agreed to pay the compensation.

The minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground in the Tubbataha National Marine Park in January last year and was removed two months later after being dismantled and lifted piece by piece by a crane to prevent more damage to the reef.

The reef has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A joint assessment by the park's management, the World Wide Fund for Nature and other experts found that 2,345 square meters (25,240 square feet) of coral was damaged.

The ship's grounding was embarrassing for Washington as it attempts to reassert its presence in Asia amid China's rise, and the Navy and the U.S. ambassador to Manila apologized.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet relieved the ship's commanding officer, executive officer and navigator, assistant navigator and officer of the deck after initial findings indicated they had failed to adhere to standard navigation procedures at the time of the grounding.

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