Guardian skipper, 3 others relieved for reef grounding


The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday said it respected the US Navy’s decision to relieve four officers after one of its vessels damaged the Tubbataha Reefs but stressed that Manila needed to conduct its own probe of the incident.

“This is apart from our own independent investigation on the grounding of the vessel being conducted by the maritime casualty investigation team. Our independent investigation team is ongoing and will come up with its own results,” Assistant Secretary and DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez told a press briefing.

Hernandez was reacting to an announcement by the US Pacific Fleet that four officers of the minesweeper USS Guardian had been relieved of their duties and reassigned in the wake of the incident.

The Pacific Fleet said in a statement on Wednesday that initial findings indicated the four sailors failed to adhere to standard navigation procedures when the vessel ran aground on  the reefs on Jan. 17.

The four were the commanding officer, the executive officer and navigator, the assistant navigator and the officer on the deck.

Workers recently finished dismantling and removing the minesweeper from the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

The park’s superintendent has said the grounding damaged about 4,000 square meters of the reef.

The United States could face a fine of more than $2 million for the damage.

Crew refuse interviews

The incident happened while the Guardian was sailing the Sulu Sea en route to its next stop. It had just visited the Philippines on a routine port call.

The US has agreed to cooperate in the Philippines’ own probe but the Guardian’s crewmen have refused to take part in face-to-face interviews with Filipino investigators.

A Philippine Coast Guard investigating team is set to fly to a US military base in Japan to meet with their counterpart American investigators.

Joint Philippine-US salvage crews completed removing the ship off the marine sanctuary’s south atoll on Friday. A more extensive marine ecological assessment is expected to begin soon.

Out of PH jurisdiction

The militant umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), among the groups pressing for US accountability, found the sacking of the four sailors “inadequate” and said the US personnel should be held liable under Philippine law.

“The move may be seen as a form of public appeasement rather than an act to exact full accountability. The relief comes just a day before the kickoff of the Balikatan war games in the Philippines and may be intended to gain the US some positive media mileage,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

The PH-US Balikatan Exercise, which this year focuses on drills in humanitarian assistance and disaster response, is scheduled to begin Friday.

“What is true now is that the US has limited the extent of the Philippine government’s own investigation, first by bringing the crew of the USS Guardian out of Philippine jurisdiction and by refusing actual interviews of the crew of the ship by Philippine investigators,” Reyes said.



“The Philippine government is now in a humiliating situation where it can only proceed with the probe to the extent that the US wants it to.”

In a meeting with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario in Washington on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated Washington’s regrets over the incident and vowed to fully compensate the Philippines for the damages on Tubbataha Reefs, a Unesco World Heritage site.

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  • dodong1

    pera lang ang inaantay ng mga kumag na ito..kaya U.S. bayaran na ninyo sila at matatahimik na ang isyung ito…PERA PERA PERA PERA…MGA MUKHANG PERA…

    • Nestor Moog

      Yes, the U.S. NAVY will pay the Philippine Government for any reef damage claims. There is talk of $300M, or Php12,600,000,000. I hope the money will be used to repair, restore, replenish, etc. the damage reefs.

      • Vertumnus

        How did you get from a $2 million fine to $300 million? The Americans lost a $300 million warship and I don’t think they will pay $300 million for damages.
        Whether this is dereliction of duty or navigational error, it’s still an accident and got blown way out of proportion. The reef will heal. It’s been doing that for thousands of years.

  • $18209031

    Incompetent , callous and arrogant navy officers. THey were warned by the Tubbathata Reef authority to stay off the Reef by radio but the officers responded by saying, Go tell that to the US embassy. THey have recordings of the radio communication. Request lang ng US navy not to give it to the media or else it will be utter humiliation on their part..

    The names of these four officers whether they be whtieazz, blackazz. Hispanic azz or Fil Am azz, must be revealed to the public so they can be blacklisted. Pino Nation cannot allow anonymous law breakers to travel to and fro inside Pinas with immunity, that be a shame and insult. The damage to Tubbathata was reckless at best disregarding all warnings and laws pertaining to maritime travel in these pristine marine biodiverse sanctuary.

    • Crazy_horse101010

      hey daku azzhole again ive seen tapeworms smarter than go back in your room in the chinese embassy and play with yourself reading chinese history books

    • buttones

      I guess the damages will be calculated when PH know, and the US agree what the damage was, according to PH law. At the moment we don’t. The USN have followed their standard procedure for incidents of the loss of a USN vessel, officers relieved of duty pending the whys and wherefores

      “Kerry reiterated Washington’s regrets over the incident and vowed to fully compensate the Philippines for the damages on Tubbataha Reefs, a Unesco World Heritage site”
      I mean what more do you want? A check by tomorrow? .You want the names of these officers so you can ‘blacklist’ them- from what? And what has their ethnic group got to do with anything? Are you racist? There is a procedure going on here, read what Kerry said. You want these guys returned to PH so you can parade them through the streets and throw stones at them?

      • mfdo

        DakuAkongUtin wants name and shame and look big, in front of the world and blow hot air and waste everybody’s time.. get over it .. and focus on important stuff .. blacklist and what ? As if the US officers gonna die fearing the blacklisting et al .. get real ..

      • buttones

        There’s a nuclear war brimming a few miles away. And we are getting excited about a few pennies ? OMG!

      • ARIKUTIK

        There’s nothing more shameful for a sailor than to run aground in the middle of the sea. Maybe the sonar man was playing on his Ipad instead of looking at blips on a tube.

        The boat had to be cut in half to be free… nya…hahaha… what a bunch of sleepers.

      • buttones

        Don’t try to be so smart, you’ve never sailed and no nothing of the sea. And PH nautical charts are thirty years old anyway- just wait for the outcome, PH will get their pennies, don’t worry about it….Calm down….On the salvage of the vessel, that was quite remarkable, the Princess of the Stars still sits in shallow water, with its thousand dead as well..

      • ARIKUTIK

        I was a sailor boy that once roamed PH islands from Aparri to Jolo with waiting girl in every port except Spratly, Pag-asa island that got no sea port but tiny air strip. Only girl turtle was there before … waaahhhh >>>

      • buttones

        If tt were only the islands of the PH you sailed, you were never a sailor at all my dear……

      • ARIKUTIK

        I did not sail the high seas of planet earth simply because it takes month to be with another girl besides the salary before is eeewww not for me.

      • fache

        I sailed the seven seas, not for GIRLS, but for WOMEN! There is a difference there, “sailor.”

      • ARIKUTIK

        Girls are sweet young maiden with twinkling eyes for love. Women are wide open monster out to rope in a man to be her slave for life. I did not intend to become a slave but only a Romeo for love struck Girls…. weeeeee……..

      • fache

        You lacked the knowledge of navigating. The navigator is responsible in charting, the sonar man advises him of any object he sees on the radar. Furthermore, The USS Guardian is called SHIP and not BOAT!

      • ARIKUTIK

        Radar is for objects on the space above water and land mass of monkeys hanging on a tree. Sonar is for swimming sharks and hidden mountain reefs below water. A navigator charts the ships course but has no idea what is hidden under water in uncharted seas. The USS Guardian maybe a mine sweeper ship but a BOAT is pleasing to the eyes like mermaid of the deep blue sea…..Whei !

      • kanoy


      • buttones

        Not too sure actually, I assume that fines levied against people who destroy our natural environment are used to correct, alleviate that particular event [silly buttones!] Maybe this fine income is used for meetings about the event at the Pen, I have no idea…. I will tell you one thing, the dismal, disgusting mess we call our environment has been caused by Filipinos, not by passing USN vessels….

    • kanoy

      >>>>>THey were warned by the Tubbathata Reef authority to stay off the Reef by radio>>>>HELLO GARCI? IS THAT YOU AGAIN? PLAY THAT RADIO CONVERSATION SO WE ALL CAN HEAR IT

      • maya11

        the marine rangers have something better — a video of that radio conversation between the rangers and the USS Guardian with the US Navy ship IN PLAIN VIEW just a few meters away IN BROAD DAYLIGHT.

        didn’t the US Navy said the ship ran aground because they were using the wrong chart while navigating in the dark?

        the video showed a marine ranger talking to someone in the USS Guardian. in a heavily accented but still understandable English, the marine ranger repeatedly warned the US Navy ship that they were navigating in a restricted marine park and were violating several laws by doing so. if i remember it right, the marine ranger even cited which laws were being violated.

        some of the replies from the US ship were hard to understand as there was static. the marine ranger would relay the replies of the USS Guardian to the other rangers with him.

        the video also showed the USS Guardian was near the marine rangers’ vessel. and the sun was obviously up. if the marine rangers’ vessel had a very loud loudspeaker, i’m sure the USS Guardian would have been able to hear it. the sea vessels were that near to each other.

        that video was shown during a TV Patrol broadcast. don’t know what happened to it then. it was never shown after that. maybe the US Gov’t pulled some ropes and not just strings to not have it aired again?

  • Nestor Moog

    U.S. Naval personnel, like their counterparts in the Philippine Navy, are humans and can err in their personal judgement and performance. A blanket condemnation like some postings here would be similar to generalizing that Filipinos are short, stupid, and lazy – which is not true. For your information, the personnel involved in the grounding of the ship have been relieved of all duties and in all probability will face court-martial.

    YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The commanding officer of the former minesweeper USS Guardian and three others have been relieved of duty following the initial investigation into the grounding of the Sasebo-based ship on a reef in the Philippines, Navy officials said Thursday.

    Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, executive officer Daniel Tyler, the ship’s enlisted assistant navigator and the officer of the deck at the time of the ship’s grounding were all relieved because they “did not adhere to the standard navy navigation procedures,” Expeditionary Strike Group Seven spokesman Lt. Brian Wierzbicki said.Rice and the others were relieved by Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley, commander of the Sasebo, Japan-based Amphibious Force 7th Fleet. Harley cited a “loss of confidence” in Rice’s ability to command, a common reason cited when Navy commanders are relieved.

    Rice is at least the seventh Navy commanding officer to be relieved of duty this year.

    All of the relieved sailors have been reassigned to Expeditionary Strike Group 7 headquarters in Sasebo pending completion of the investigation, officials said Thursday.The investigation was initiated by 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Scott Swift, Navy officials said Thursday. © Copyright 2013 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    • fache

      In addition to being relieved of their command and responsibilities, their careers as naval officers are finished! As to the enlisted man, he or she will never be promoted to the next higher rank and/or will be demoted to the next lower rank, forfeiture of pay and allowances.

  • ed_dAVAO

    Hayaan nyo na yang U.S navy, Tayo ang nangangailangan sa kanila. Babayad naman sila ng fine eh. Nakapagtataka lang ang report na grounded yong apat na officer, siempre wala na silang barko eh.

  • $18209031

    Lumalaki ang ulo ng mga officers sa barko ng USS Guardian. Akala nila they are infallible for flying the US flag in Phil waters and not heeding the warnings of the Tubbathata Reef Authority prior to the accident.

    Yan , wasak sila sa reef. Pumalpak ang kanilang mga training at gamit.

  • kasile

    relieved talaga dahil scrap na yung barko nila, wala na silang masakyan kundi magwalis na sa base nila. . ang gusto ko makulong talaga kahit doon na lang sa guam. . I court martial nila para maniwala pa ang mgas pinoy. .

  • Vic_Usi

    If they pay a fine of, say, $2M, isn’t that enough punishment aside from the fact that they also lost a ship as a consequence? Why go to the extent of running after the four officers? Yes, these officers ignored our rules and they must be condemned for that but how many times are we going to condemn them? They are not criminals after all. Did they rape any Filipina?

    When the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu were in trouble in Sabah, we wanted to save them from the hands of Malaysians even if we disliked Kiram’s decision. Now, we must understand why the US Navy wants our hands off the four officers. All nations express concern for the welfare of its citizens. The only difference is that we are not as powerful as the US.

    In closing, why don’t we just pressure the US to pay the fines ASAP. That would enable the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Parks Office to acquire more competent people, better communications equipment and patrol boats necessary in their operations.

    • mfdo

      well, doesn’t the PH legal system drag cases for years ?Why shouldn’t the US guys spend a couple of years instead of begging the americans to pay the fines so the Tubbataha reef management gets paid better ?? LOL ..

      Or if the US guys ask to ‘deduct off the millions we give as donation, while we decide when we will pay this damage ?? ”

      oh, and in the meantime, the Aquino Govt forgets the millions are getting paid, for the Balikatan exercise as well as use of PH facilities as staging base for the SK war games ..

      Short memory people have .. and make it look like broke always .

  • joboni96

    to face pilipino laws
    kaya lang nag mcarthur na
    tumakbo na
    thanks to collaborators in the government
    and bwisiting forces agreement

  • mfdo

    dream on, if you think you can do mindless investigation and expect some stars from Americans :D

    As if the PH DFA will learn. . yah right .. US Navy has done it’s investigation, accept it, and fine / punish the US for destruction of the reef, and move on to more important stuff.

  • ed_dAVAO

    relieve? wala na ngang barko eh. Narelieve sila lahat.

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