A photo showing the USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper, stuck at the "protected" Tubbataha Reef natural park (Photo courtesy of AFP Western Command)

Another photo showing the USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper stuck at the “protected” Tubbataha Reef natural park (Photo courtesy of AFP Western Command)

The US Navy is investigating findings that faulty map data may have led to the grounding of its ship at the protected Tubbataha Reef in Palawan, an official said Saturday.

An “initial review of navigation data indicates an error in the location of Tubbataha Reef” on the USS Guardian’s digital map, Navigator of the Navy Rear Adm. Jonathan White said in a statement.

A US Navy investigation “will include information on faulty navigation chart data that misplaced the location of Tubbataha Reef,” according to the statement, posted at the US Pacific Fleet web site (http://www.cpf.navy.mil).

Meanwhile, the Navy said it was still continuing operations to “free” the Guardian with “minimal” effects to the reef, listed by the United Nations as a World Heritage site.

Environmental organization World Wildlife Fund’s local office said earlier that at least 10 meters of the reef were damaged when the Guardian ran aground on Thursday.

“Several support vessels have arrived and all steps are being taken to minimize environmental effects while ensuring the crew’s continued safety,” US 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Scott Swift said.

All 79 crew members of the Guardian had been “temporarily removed” and transferred by small boat to the nearby support vessels USNS Bowditch and MSV C-Champion, the Navy said. (John Roson)

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