USS Guardian removed from Tubbataha Reef; damage assessment next


In a photo released by the U.S. Navy, the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian sits aground in this Jan. 22, 2013 file photo on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea in the Philippines. AP FILE PHOTO

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines – The removal of the minesweeper USS Guardian that got stuck in Tubbataha Reefs some two months ago was completed Saturday, two weeks ahead of date estimates initially made by both Philippine and US authorities.

Philippine Coast Guard Palawan District head Commander Enrico Efren Evangelista said the salvaging operation, that began right after the grounding in mid-January, took about 10 weeks to complete with the removal of the last major part of the ship, its stern, on Saturday afternoon.

Manual cleanup operations involving US and Philippine Navy divers, however, continued, as plans to conduct a full blown reef damage assessment was being prepared.

The Tubbataha Management Office (TMO), which handled the parks’ operations including reef management and dive tour supervision, said the full damage assessment has been scheduled to begin April 8.

“The last major part of ex-USS Guardian, the stern section, was removed on Saturday afternoon. Next is to continue the manual debris cleanup at the grounding site. Then we will proceed to the next phase, which is the assessment and rehabilitation phase,” Evangelista said.

Tubbataha Park Superintendent Angelique Songco said the TMO would be directly involved in the assessment but they have yet to be advised of the next steps.

Authorities earlier estimated the salvaging operation to be completed by mid-April.

Evangelista said all the parts of the minesweeper recovered by the salvaging team were to be brought to an American naval facility in Sasebo, Japan.

Involved in the salvaging operations were USS Safeguard, USNS Wally Shirra, Jascon 25, Smit Borneo, Seabridge Barge, Tug Archon Tide, Tug Intrepid, Malayan Towage salvage vessel Trabajador-1, and USNS Washington Chamberlain.

Environmental groups have also reiterated earlier demands that the United States Navy pay for the damage, according to rules and procedures laid down by the park’s established rules.

The US has unilaterally announced it is committed to rehabilitate the damage done by the Guardian but has kept its discussions on the matter strictly confidential with the Department of Foreign Affairs and not with the TMO.

“We must follow the rule of law, RA (Republic Act No.) 10067 spells out the violations committed and the penalties that must be paid to the Tubbataha Management Office,” Jose Ma Lorenzo Tan, executive officer of the World Wildlife Fund, said in his social media site.

“The settlement or compensation package must be done as part of the implementation of the law that created Tubbataha as a protected area,” the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) based in Palawan said in a statement.

Earlier, the militant group Pamalakaya urged the Philippine government to reject a reported offer of the US for a P95-million compensation package.

“The PhP95 million offer for compensation for the Tubbataha destruction and PhP 4.1 million for rehabilitation are dime-a-dozen offers compared to the extent of the environmental holocaust spurred by the grounding of USS Guardian to the UNESO declared national treasure,” Pamalakaya said in a press statement.

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  • Jack Bw

    So, when we receive $500+ million in economic aid what do the militants have to say about that?

    • CommonSens6

      The GRP has received over 500million USD in military aid from the USA
      since 2002. In additions she received 20 recondition choppers, 1 Cyclone
      class ship, 1 Hamilton class cutter and possibly 1 more Hamilton class
      ship and a squadron of used F16’s (source: Reuters). The US has given the GRP 9.5B USD in foreign assistance since 1946, 4.4 billion thru USAID. In 2011 USAID aid to RP was 102 million USD, in 2010 it was 99mil + change (Source: USAID). The US has budgeted 30 million US annually as GRP military aid.

      The annual OFW remittances is approx 30 Billion (20+ officially), a fair estimate of 10-15Billion USD annually would have come from US based workers. So you be the judge if Uncle Sam is your friend or foe!

      • kilawon(the return)

        does that mean they have the right to wreck havoc on our environment dumping ground for their toxic waste,slamming our reefs etc> so we call it quits,right? have u ever heard about “LAW” ? so where is ur common sense on ur “PWET” ?

      • Jack Bw

        No, of course not. I’m just curious what the CPP and the militants say about receiving $500 million in aid. So far I hear nothing. They also have nothing to say against China; there were no red flags in the protests in front of the Chinese embassy. Look, I welcomed the removal of the US bases back in the day. But when I see these militants and their selective protests, I see hyopocrisy.

      • Crazy_horse101010

        its to late. look at that sewage canal that you call a river in manila. why dont you go out and clean it up . it dumps tons of toxic waste in the ocean every year and if that isnt enough i can show you a piggery that has a pipe a meter in diameter going under the highway that has been dumping for years, the ocean there is a sicking brown with dead mangroves. but as you have shown before you could less care one iota for the ocean you just want to attack foreigners

      • Crazy_horse101010

        how much as your favorite country china given and did they pay for destroying half of lagunais protected reef in talisday cebu march 6 2009 it tore a hole 20 feet deep and almost ran over some divers. they paid a 5000 piso fine and disappeared the reef is still destroyed it was in the cebu papers for 2 days then forgotten about

      • Crazy_horse101010

        it was a chinese container ship that was passing through

      • Joe Kano

        It was an accident, bozo.
        Only Filipinos have the right to wreak havoc on the Philippine environment, and they do so constantly.
        Happy now?

      • CommonSens6

        Sir kilawon, nobody is saying the US should not pay… in fact they already stated they would pay admin fee + cost of restoration. It was an accident; the US is smarter than you think about causing reef damage plus deliberately causing damage to their ships themselves is not only not using common sense but would be like shooting themselves in the “pwet”.

  • akramgolteb

    Paano naman yun mga sinira ng mga mangingisda na 95% ng coral reefs ng Pilipinas? UN report 95% ng coral reefs ng Pinas namamatay na dahil sa chemical & dynamite fishing. Hindi ba pagbabayarin ang mga mangingisda at mga amo nilang lokal na politiko?

  • Joe Kano

    Most Filipinos are smart enough to realize that this accident
    will not effect their lives in any way whatsoever, that they will never
    see Tubbataha anyway because it’s reserved for the elite, and that the
    PH and US are fully capable of addressing the situation in a reasonable
    manner without a bunch of unnecessary drama.

    The good thing that came out of all this is that the publicity helped
    more people understand the need to protect and restore reefs throughout
    the nation, because they promote fish populations that feed people.
    Unfortunately, too much of the media coverage characterized Tubbataha as
    simply a national trophy, rather than an important part of a vital

    Meanwhile, the clowns who are so eager to put on fish costumes, burn
    things and chant like zombies in front of the US embassy will have to
    find another flimsy pretext for their group-think exercises and
    theatrical ranting.

    • Crazy_horse101010

      only here do you see the feeding frenzy in the cebu papers there isnt near the stories and nothing in the forums. more radicals here who hate americans

  • BIGButo

    For all you anti American leftis the reef has very little damage done to it so don’t worry about it no damage done. Just an unfortunate accident.

  • Stuubs

    We Filipinos are the most hypocrite ! the damage is only minimal and it was just an accident !… whereas those chinoys who are polluting metro manila for decades with their factory wastes were not fined, not one of them… HYPOCRITES !

  • disqusted0fu

    Other nations have no respect of the rules in the PH because they know that the government officials themselves, especially the allies of the Aquino administration do not respect them either.

    The damage has already been done, and in terms of money, the reef is almost irreparable. For all we know, the money offered might even be used for personal interests rather than the repair of the reef.

  • californiaflip

    Why no comment about reefs destroyed by Chinese fishermen and military? Too many double faced traitor faketivists.

  • crisostomo_ibarra_the3rd

    This USS guardian grounding at the reef will soon be out of the limelight. So does the Sabah issue. Election fever is setting in. Let the entertainment and games begin.

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