US Navy told to submit Tubbataha salvage plan

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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

PUERTO PRINCESA, Palawan—Defense officials on Tuesday asked the United States to submit its salvage plan for the grounded USS Guardian for approval before undertaking a delicate salvage operation that would involve hoisting the stricken vessel onto a barge.

“We need to see and approve the salvage plan because we want to ensure that it will not inflict further damage on the coral reefs,” said Efren Evangelista, Philippine Coast Guard Commander of the Palawan District.

The Guardian has remained stuck in the south atoll of the Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Sea flank of Palawan after it ran aground in the extensive reef ecosystem of the country’s prime marine park last Jan. 17.

US apology

The US has apologized for the incident, saying it recognized the importance of the Unesco World Heritage site and vowed to pay for the damage inflicted on the reef.

Evangelista said further assessment is being undertaken to establish an updated estimate of the damage, earlier estimated at 1,000 square meters of corals.

The US initially projected the salvage operations to start within the week and would involve the use of two crane vessels from a Singapore-based salvage company, Evangelista said.

“We don’t have a time frame when the salvage operation can start as we are still waiting for the arrival of the salvage ship,” he said.

Earlier plans to tow the ship out into deeper waters were scuttled after the Guardian developed severe hull damage with water seeping into the ship.

US officials said late last week they would try to simply lift the vessel into a barge and bring it to a repair shipyard.

However, some local military officials said the plan to hoist the Guardian to a barge would be “difficult and could be dangerous.”

Practical options

“I cannot comment officially but there are more practical options, including cutting the ship into smaller parts before lifting it out of the water,” said a naval official who asked not to be named because he cannot speak officially on behalf of the Task Force Tubbataha, which the government has formed to conduct an inquiry into the grounding of the US vessel.

The issue of the distressed minesweeper and the damage it continues to inflict on a protected marine sanctuary was apparently not on the agenda when a delegation of US lawmakers met with Philippine officials Tuesday.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) officials said the discussions focused on furthering longstanding defense and economic ties between the two countries.

Environmental issues were discussed broadly, with a focus on Philippine initiatives on preparing for and mitigating the impact of climate change, DFA officials said.

No discussion

 

“There was a discussion of the leadership of the Philippines in terms of conservation of the environment,” said Carlos Sorreta, the assistant secretary for American Affairs.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia said there was not much opportunity to discuss the Tubbataha Reef incident.  “(Environment Secretary Ramon Paje) mentioned it a bit but there was not much of a discussion,” Cuisia said.

Asked why the Guardian issue was not discussed, Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesperson said he did not know.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Energy Secretary Carlos Petilla and Paje led the hour-long discussion with the US delegation headed by US Rep. Ed Royce, chair of the foreign affairs committee of the US House of Representatives, and which included US Representatives Gregory Meeks, Vern Buchanan, Eliot Engel, Matthew James Salmon and Thomas Anthony Marino.

Unesco assessment

Meanwhile, Heherson Alvarez, commissioner of the Climate Change Commission, on Tuesday said the government should let the Unesco (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) conduct an “independent assessment” of the damage caused by the Guardian on the Tubbataha Reef as it is in “the best position to estimate the required amount for the total recovery of the damaged reef, and the amount of work and time this will involve.” With reports from Tarra Quismundo and Jerry E. Esplanada

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

  • i_am_filipino

    LETS US FINE THE US NAVY WITH EVERY DAY ACTIVITY OF THE INVOLVED PHILIPPINE NAVY, PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD, TUBATAHA REEF TASK GROUP, THE FISHERMAN WHO ARE AFFECTED, EVERY INDIVIDUAL THAT WILL BE INVOLVED IN INVESTIGATION. THEY WILL BE COMPENSATED IN A DAILY BASIS INCLUDING OVERTIME. THIS INCLUDE BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE PORTS AND EVERY AGENCIES WHO ARE MONITORING THE WRECKED VESSEL.

    • http://www.facebook.com/pgnelineman Daniel Nielsen

      the blasting fisherman are now in palawan sine the reefs are destroyed in the cebu bohol and negros areas but soon they will be blowing that reef to hell after palawan. there is no where else to go.i know i  live in what was a fishing village but no more. i seen the fishing industry destroyed here in 7 years. no more trawlers no more bancas. i used to see fisherman at night fishing. it looked like a city with al the lights. now there is only one or two boats

  • i_am_filipino

    WELL, THE WHOLE POINT HERE IS PHILIPPINES IS NOT YOUR COUNTRY AND YOU KANOY SHOULD BEHAVE. IF YOU WISH TO DO THE SAME LIKE WHAT FILIPINO DID IN PASIG RIVER, THEN DO SO. WHO DESTROYED THE PASIG RIVER. WHO ESTABLISHED COMPANIES ADJACENT TO THIS RIVER? MOSTLY OWNED BY AMERICAN COMPANIES LIKE COLGATE. THEY DESTROYED THE RIVER. LET THE GOVERNMENT AUDIT THESE COMPANIES AND SEE FOR YOURSELF.

    • PurpleDaisy13

      re: “MOSTLY OWNED BY AMERICAN COMPANIES LIKE COLGATE.”

      American or even Chinese companies operating in the Philippines are not the problem to the pollution in your Pasig River in the Philippines i_am_filipino.  You and your Filipino leaders are simply stupid and corrupt. 

      If local or foreign-owned companies violate pollution laws, then why
      does your Philippine government allow such establishments to continue to operate i_am_filipino?  Because you and your Filipino leaders are stupid and corrupt.

      With such stupidity and corrupt mentality coupled with millions of poor and uneducated people living over and along the river who use the waterways as one big open sewer and garbage dump, you get exactly what the Department of Environment and Natural Resources 2003 pollution report says…..a Pasig River which is biologically DEAD.

      Why don’t you do something about your country I_am_filipino…it’s so filthy as h*ll.

    • http://twitter.com/Joe_The_Kano Joe Kano

       Do you also blame the Americans because you wet the bed?

  • 100% freedom of navigation

    Lagyan lang ng troso ang barko sa ilalim at saka hilahin. Puno ng Nara o kaya sequoia tree para deretso at mahaba upang sa ganon umabot ang magkabilaang dulo ng troso sa sides ng barko. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/T623XSRDVCOEQVX7P5LQPF2LPU Jack

    MINESWEEPER in Tubbataha? Could be sweeping or exploring for a possible Oil field in Tubbataha area.

  • mon key

    the 7th fleet has already announced that they will cut up the mine sweeper. go to yahoo news. our government officials are so slow. our senate is busy covering enrile and his gigi. bed sheet talaga. pu3s!

  • DakuAkongUtin

    Call the Chinese Navy for assistance. They have heavy lift equipment at the ready.

  • i_am_filipino

    WELL THROUGH THICK AND THIN, I AM STILL PROUD TO BE A FILIPINO. ONE DAY. ALL THE STARS WILL KNEEL TO US. LET YAHWEH THE HEAVENLY FATHER ON EARTH PUNISH THOSE WHO PUNISH THE PHILIPPINES. I COMMAND FROM THE HEAVEN THAT THE DISASTER WILL SPREAD TO THE COUNTRY THAT IS ENEMY TO THE PHILIPPINES. HALLELUJAH!!!

    • http://twitter.com/Joe_The_Kano Joe Kano

       In the bloody meantime, you will be a proud arse-wiper in Europe, sinabi mo.

      • i_am_filipino

        Well, sorry , don’t press yourself too much in the PHilippine Island . I am sure you have a lot of filipino enemies and I believe you can’t mingle with any of them because you are UNCIRCUMCIZE, yikesss.

      • http://twitter.com/Joe_The_Kano Joe Kano

         Please take your medication.

      • http://www.facebook.com/pgnelineman Daniel Nielsen

        another commie american hater who doesnt have a clue.

    • http://www.facebook.com/pgnelineman Daniel Nielsen

      hey comrade hows the weather in holland

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