US vows to help assess damage to coral reefs


This handout photo taken on January 19, 2013 and released on January 20, 2013 by the Philippine Western Command (WESCOM) shows an aerial shot of US Navy minesweeper, the USS Guardian, as it remains trapped on the Tubbataha reef after it ran aground on the western Philippine island of Palawan.  AFP PHOTO/WESCOM

Manila, Philippines – The United States said it will continue to work with the Philippine government as it apologized for any damage that its minesweeper has caused when it ran aground  the Tubbataha Reef off Palawan last week.

“When the Guardian is safely recovered by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. government will continue to work with the Republic of Philippines government to assess the extent of the damage to the reef and the surrounding marine environment caused by the grounding,” the US Naval fleet said Sunday in its official website.

“The Republic of the Philippines government was promptly informed of the incident and is being updated regularly by U.S. officials,” it added.

Vice Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Navy’s 7th fleet, also  apologized for the incident.

“As a protector of the sea and a dailor myself, I greatly regret any damage this incident has caused to the Tubbataha Reef,” Swift said in the same statement from the website.

“We know the significance of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and its importance as a World Heritage Site. Its protection is vital, and we take seriously our obligations to protect and preserve the maritime environment,” he added.

The US Navy has sent 10 American divers to assess the situation and two private salvor ships to try to extricate its US Warship, the USS Guradian, which ran aground before dawn Thursday last week.

Swift said Rear Adm. Thomas Carney, Commander of Logistics Group Western Pacific, would take over as the on-scene commander to oversee the Guardian recovery operations.

“Carney will embark the destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), which along with several other U.S. Navy support vessels, is focused on preventing any further environmental damage to the reef and surrounding marine environment,” he swift.

Swift noted that the condition of the ship had not changed but that there were no traces of an oil slick in the area.

Philippine officials and environmentalists have expressed strong concern that the extraction may cause more damage to the reef, as the 688-meter ship was lying on some 10 meters of coral.

The US warship docked at the former American naval base in Subic Bay on January 13 for routine refueling, resupply, and rest and recreation. It was scheduled to make a brief stop at Puerto Princesa before heading off to its next port call in India when it grazed the reef and got stuck 128 kilometers off Palawan.

The US Navy initially blamed a faulty map used by the minesweeper that misplaced the location of the Tubbataha Reef.

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  • Joe Kano

    All these posing militants and political opportunists will be SOOOO disappointed if damage to the reef is minimal.

    Because they really don’t care about the reef at all. They just relish a pretext to bash the US and promote their own narrow agendas.

    • Matt Lee

      Like you care about the reef, you’re just using it as a pretext to extort for military hardware you don’t want to pay for.

      • Joe Kano

        I care about the reef as much as any reasonable person should. But I’m not the one howling in “protest” about damage to the reef, am I?

        Your comment about military hardware etc. doesn’t even make any sense.

      • Matt Lee

        You’re right, I misread another poster’s comments for demanding hardware as repayment as yours. My apologies on that one.

      • Joe Kano

        Spoken like a true gentleman.

      • DurangoJoe

        Better to ask for payment in kind like warships and jet planes instead of letting China grab it for free. Payment in kind is better than money because will end up in somebody’s pocket. It is standard practice in China.

      • DurangoJoe

         You don’t care about the damage to the Tubbataha reef because it is not your reef. This is protected by the World Heritage Site. This a very important marine environment and eco-system. It is priceless. It is worth more than we bargain for.

      • Matt Lee

        I’m not the one demanding for military hardware and using this incident as a pretext for the extortion demands. If you really cared for the reef, you should be demanding for updates of all maps as well as navigational markers around the site. I believe there is a light house there. So the question is, was it working? If not, perhaps any reparations should be applied to fixing the light house, not your hokey attempt to extract destroyers and F-35 fighters that you don’t even have properly trained human resources for. I guess maybe beach the destroyer on this reef too.

      • DurangoJoe

         It is very important that this world’s treasure be protected from the greedy hands of the Chinese fishermen. Tubbataha reef was nominated as the New 7 Wonders of Nature. According to UN, the 80% of the reef along the Chinese coast is already depleted by over-fishing so China’s fishermen escorted by Chinese warships are encroaching into Philippine territory destroying our
        fishing and marine environment. The best way to protect these
        priceless treasures that belongs to the Philippines is to have a strong military. I pray that there will be no oil spillage during the extraction of the US vessel but if there is then they have to pay dearly. The payment should be in kind not cash. Cash will only end up in someone’s pockets.

      • Matt Lee

        You don’t need it to be cash, a financial amount held in escrow towards the purchase of hardware is fine. But demanding for state-of-art destroyers and fighters is extortion. No where will the amount of compensation for the reef damage will be equivalent to your wish list. 

        Poachers of all ethnicity will be around. What you need is a merger of your navy and coast guard for you don’t have the resources to field both. Even Australia does not have a coast guard. A volunteer coast guard is entirely different. Also, you need to shop realistically. You want to be able to defend yourself? Stop fantasizing about what the US fields. Buying yourself some decent land based radar systems combined with a decent fleet of modern corvettes is your best bang for the buck. Not destroyers nor F-35s. You’ll sap your budget dry just doing maintenance.

  • Pakinaskungtaeb

     Her position (USS Guardian) above the huge rock is very much alike the Super Ferry Vessel that ran aground near Ditaytayan Island in Coron, Palawan almost two years ago.  Maps could have erroneous but for sure they’ve ran at great speed near the place. 

  • Edgardo Mendoza


  • NaUnsa

    Never mind extracting that warship! Since, they didn’t ask permission to sneak inside the Philippines, that warship is ours now and forget about damage fee that will only go to someone’s pocket. Just leave it there permanently to deter those future chinese poachers and their sneaky submarines too!

  • DakuAkongUtin

    Gawing bombing target na yan sa PAF Tora Tora squadron para matapos na. Tapos hihilahin na lang pabalik sa tubig para maging man made coral reef.

    • DurangoJoe

      Mr. NamamagangUtin, Hindi pwedeng Tora Tora squadron kasi lalong masisira ang reef.
      Pag hinila ang ship ay lalong magagasgas ang reef at lalaki ang damage. Magiging 3 destroyers na ang bayad, (5) F-35 at 10 attack helicopters. No money kasi pupunta lang yan sa bulsa ng mga politikos. Pwede nang sibakin ang China after. 

  • doublecross

    ‘faulty map…..99% human error, 1% mechanical error, tell that to the marines!

  • joboni96

    jo kanoto

    gwapo man daw ang matsing
    unggoy pa rin

  • disqusted0fu

    Like the Atimonan mess, this is another test, among many others, on the Aquino administration. Pnoy’s leadership in handling this alarming situation should take place and be demonstrated. Everyone responsible for it should pay the price. He should not just focus on assailing his enemies and for once pay attention to national quandaries

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