MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has given the go-signal for the salvage plan of the US Navy.
The plan involves using cranes to remove the stranded USS Guardian piece by piece from the Tubbataha Reef.
“We have carefully reviewed the US Navy’s salvage operations plan and we were assured that among their priorities is to have no further damage to the Tubbataha Reef,” DOTC secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said in a statement Thursday.
“We considered several factors and imposed certain conditions before we gave clearance for the US Navy and commercial salvors it has commissioned to undertake the dismantling and vertical removal of the grounded US ship,” Abaya said.
Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Palawan district chief Commodore Enrico Evangelista said that the crane ship Smit Borneo had already arrived in Tubbataha Tuesday evening and was rigging its anchor in the area.
The USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper that the US said was already “a complete loss,” had been stranded on the Unesco World Heritage Site since January 17, 2013.
The ship will be cut in into pieces and then vertically extracted from the site. The removal could take up to next month depending on weather conditions, the statement said.
More than 1,000 square meters of reefs in the protected area had already been destroyed by the grounded ship. The US had issued an apology for the incident and assured the Philippine government that it would compensate for the damages.