Reef salvage target: Jan. 30

US regrets grounding of minesweeper in Tubbataha Reef


Giant waves batter the USS Guardian, a minesweeper that ran aground in the POWERLESS. Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Sea, tossing the ship some 90 degrees from its position on Thursday (inset) and making it parallel to the reef line. The photographs are courtesy of the AFP Western Command

Plans to remove the stranded United States Navy minesweeper USS Guardian from the Tubbataha Reef are expected to be finalized today, with a private Singaporean salvage company instructed to prioritize minimizing further environmental damage in the area.

This developed as the US government yesterday reiterated its regrets over the grounding of the USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef and vowed to work with Philippine authorities to address the damage done to the World Heritage Site.

“On behalf of the United States government, I wish to convey to the Philippine government and people my profound regret over the grounding of the USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef. This was an unfortunate accident, and I recognize the legitimate concerns over the damage caused to a unique and precious wonder of nature, internationally recognized for its beauty and biological diversity,” US Ambassador Harry Thomas said in a statement.

“We will work collaboratively with the Philippines to assess the damage and to take steps to address the environmental issues that have arisen from this incident,” he said.

Delicate operation

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said Task Force Tubbataha was working closely with the US Navy and SMIT Singapore Pte Ltd, which are both sending several vessels to help in the delicate operation.

The removal of the ship, however, is not expected to be done until Jan. 30, when all vessels involved in the operation are scheduled to arrive at the site.

“Part of the salvage plan is to use a crane with high lifting capacity for the vertical removal of the stranded ship instead of just dragging it to avoid incurring more damage to the reef,” Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya said in a statement.

The DOTC said the US Navy would send a salvage vessel, the USNS Salvor, to the Sulu Sea on Saturday to aid in the removal.

SMIT Singapore, the company hired by the US Navy to lead to operation, would send SMIT Cyclone and SMIT Borneo. Both vessels are expected to arrive on Jan. 30.

Securing the ship

“They (US Navy, Philippine Navy and salvage company from Singapore) continued to secure the top side of the ship, removed all small items and secured other items that were left behind,” Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena was quoted by the DOTC as saying.

Isorena said the removal of small items from the stranded ship was delayed for several hours—from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Thursday—due to erratic weather conditions.

US Navy personnel started to transfer USS Guardian items and its crew’s personal effects to another US Navy ship, USNS Mustin.

Another ship, Vos Apollo, was able to get into position and conducted partial defueling of the USS Guardian.

Fuel tank drained

The stranded ship’s fuel tank was drained at a rate of 80 gallons per minute. It will take three defueling tanks to drain the USS Guardian. The DOTC said all salvage operations were still at the mercy of sea and weather conditions.

Earlier, the inspection team assessed that approximately 1,000 square meters of corals were severely damaged due to the incident.

Several militant groups have picketed the US Embassy in Manila to demand an apology from President Barack Obama and the US Navy. Some lawmakers have also called for the investigation of the incident.

The US ambassador said he was “deeply grateful” to the Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Navy for their “close cooperation” with the US authorities who will also help in the investigation.

“We will continue our combined efforts to resolve this matter. As the investigation of this matter proceeds, we hope to continue our close coordination with the Philippine government to understand precisely what happened so we can ensure there will be no recurrence,” Thomas said.

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Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • hanep

    The US  must  pay  for  all  the  rehabilitation  costs  for  the damage
    done .  


    • riza888

      OR the Philippines can deduct the cost from the millions in aid the US gives to the Philippines every year.

      • sh1seadad

        This is a good Idea and a good way to pay for this accident  

    • Roberto

       Yes, they have to pay pero baka na naman mapunta sa maling bulsa ang kabayaran.

  • junsepara

    militant group should rally on two fronts, one is in chinks embassy to demand to cut the rope from the chink’s ship tied to a rock off scarborough shoal and the illegal occupation of an island in spratley by the chink’s force!!! and the other the US embassy. militants can eat the corals of tubattaha too!!!!

  • Ben

    Next time to avoid any confusion. The Philippine government must set up warning bouys in the strategic areas of the world heritage site Tubbataha, more easier build a light house for the ships passing by…this will help steer sea crafts away not unless they wanted to ram the reef formations or navigation malfunction.

    The 1000 square meter damage is not really a cause for concern compare that to the millions of acres of forest denudation in the whole Philippines that we Filipinos did to our lands causing flashfloods, landslisdes so destructive and billions of pesos losts and millions of filipinos affected. Put that in your mind before making a hysterical protest against the US vessel. Its easier to think clearly and intelligently if your mind is clear than filled it with nonsense, no one wants to destroy any corals unless China wants to build a base in there as they did in Mischief reef dredging the coral formation. Let them pay and use that payment to build a light house or buy warning bouys to warn passing ships, and allow the damaged reef to regenerate.

    • Jojalyn Laurito Sumayo

      why you to agree with china to build of base or Mischief reef dredging the coral formation, if u are a filipino people. that china wants to make own the scarborough shoal. but dis is a property of the phil, lands. b’coz of money is that nonsense thingking.
      This is a small ship it should be easy to pick up on the bow using air bags. and a small help with the lift of the crane. All fuel and water have been removed so the draft is very shallow. when the crane lifts the bow the salvage ship will pull the mine sweeper back off the reef. They will also wait for high tide it should be pretty easy to free the ship with very little damage to the coral and the ship.

  • Roberto

    1,000 square meters bale isang kilometrong parisukat ang nasalanta. Nalason ang mga biodiversity na nandoon.  Kung may respeto tayo hindi sila basta na lang parang may-ari ng bansa.

  • sh1seadad

    This is a small ship it should be easy to pick up on the bow using air bags. and a small help with the lift of the crane. All fuel and water have been removed so the draft is very shallow. when the crane lifts the bow the salvage ship will pull the mine sweeper back off the reef. They will also wait for high tide it should be pretty easy to free the ship with very little damage to the coral and the ship.

  • Robert

    environmental ya right, Lets go fishing break out the dynamite.

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