What Went Before: Damage wrought by USS Guardian
MANILA, Philippines-On Jan. 17 last year, the Avenger-class minehunter USS Guardian ran aground on the south atoll of the Tubbataha Reefs while sailing to Indonesia following a port call on Subic Bay.
The grounding damaged 2,345 square meters of coral on the reefs, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) World Heritage Site in the middle of the Sulu Sea.
After 10 weeks, the salvage operation was completed by a Singapore-based salvor company hired by the US Navy. The ship had to be dismantled piece by piece so it could be lifted without damaging the reef further.
It was then decommissioned and stricken off the naval registry.
In April 2013, the commanding officer of the Guardian, Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, the executive officer and navigator Lt. Daniel Tyler, the assistant navigator and the officer of the deck at the time of the grounding were relieved.
In the same month, the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) said it would fine the United States not more than $1.4 million (about P60 million) for the damage to the Tubbataha Reefs.
The report of the assessment team, composed of divers and researchers from the TMO and World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines, showed that the damaged area spanned 2,345.67 sqm, smaller than the initial estimate of 4,000 sq m, which would have pushed the fine to $5 million, or about P200 million.
Under Republic Act No. 10067, or the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009, a fine of about $600 or P24,000 per sqm of damaged reef is mandatory.
In June 2013, the US Navy, in a report on the results of its own investigation, said the lack of leadership and faulty navigational equipment led to the grounding of the Guardian.
The report added that further administrative action was being considered against the four officers of the ship.—Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquirer Archives
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