Tag Archive: coast guard


Two Coast Guard personnel abducted by the Abu Sayyaf escaped and have been found by government troops Thursday following a clash with the al Qaeda-linked group in Indanan, Sulu, the military said.

Soldiers found SN2 Gringo Villaruz in Brgy. Buanza around 7 a.m. and SN1 Rod Pagaling around 8:30 a.m., Captain Antonio Bulao, public affairs officer of the Armed Forces’ Joint Task Group-Sulu, said.

“Villaruz was able to escape from his captors at the height of firefight,” Bulao said in a text message.

Both Villaruz and Pagaling were not injured but have been taken to the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Trauma Hospital in Jolo for medical checks, he said.

The duo’s recovery came hours after troops battled about 100 Abu Sayyaf members led by sub-commanders Yasser Igasan and Alhabsy Misaya in Brgy. Buanza.

Members of the Army’s elite Scout Rangers, backed by cannon fire, stormed a bandit lair in that barangay from 5:25 p.m. to 7 p.m. in an operation aimed at rescuing kidnap victims.

As much as 15 Abu Sayyaf men were reportedly killed in the clash though only five bodies have so far been recovered, according to a report from the task group.

Some of them were identified as Joy Juliyon, Arapat Bagadi, Majindi, Sarman Aidarud, Mandi, Arapat Hadjiri, Dunni Ammin, Salman Wahid, Majindi Kamlun, and Runni Said.

Abu Sayyaf members Abdel Dela Cruz, Sherwin Dela Cruz, Mawalil, Duni, Bidah, Lasis Jihili, and Kapatud Sarman were reportedly wounded.

Four members of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion were slightly wounded, Bulao said.

They were identified as Pfcs. Elvin Bacalargio, Johnrie Melegrito, Johnzen Tagumpay, and Cpl. Earl Bompat.

Troops are still verifying information that Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Alden Bagadi was killed in the clash and have confirmed that his cousin Arafat died, Bulao said.

Villaruz and Pagaling were abducted along with Brgy. Aliguay chairman Rodolfo Buligao in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte, last May 4.

Abu Sayyaf members threatened to behead the three if the P1-million ransom demand for each of them was not given.

Buligao’s severed head and body were found at a road junction in Maimbung town August 11.

Nine kidnap victims, four of whom are foreigners, remain in the hands of Abu Sayyaf members in different parts of Sulu after Villaruz and Pagaling’s recovery, Bulao said.

Villaruz and Pagaling had been spotted with 200 bandits and four other captives, three of whom have foreign-sounding surnames, three days before the assault in Indanan, according to a military report.

The foreign captives who had been with Villaruz and Pagaling are Malaysian and Korean nationals, Bulao said.

“Troops are still scouring areas around the clash site, looking for the other captives,” he said. (John Roson)

– end –

The boom found off Zambales after it was towed to shore. (Coast Guard photos)

The boom found off Zambales after it was towed to shore. (Coast Guard photos)

(Updated 5 p.m. July 26) A long boom with what are believed to be Chinese markings was found floating near disputed waters off Zambales, authorities said.

The boom, measuring about 1 kilometer, was spotted around 3 p.m. Friday some 3 nautical miles (5.5 kilometers) west of Iba town, Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Marfil, head of the Coast Guard Station Subic, said.

Fishermen who saw the boom informed the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources which, in turn, reported to the nearest Coast Guard sub-station in Masinloc town, Marfil said.

The Masinloc Sub-Station asked fishermen to check, then at around 6 p.m., nine fishing bancas towed the boom towards Brgy. Sto. Rosario, Iba, Marfil said in an emailed report.

“Based on the statement of the fishermen, the floating object posed a hazard to navigation and was close to [a group of] corals,” he said.

Pictures obtained from Coast Guard Station Subic show that boom has a metal pipe connected by large orange floaters, and has what appear to be Chinese markings.

The pipe has a diameter of 1.5 meters while each floater has a diameter of 2 meters, according to Marfil’s report.

“Para siyang spill boom, parang pangharang ang porma… ‘Yung plastic na pangharang niya, orange. May Chinese na nakasulat,” a personnel at CGS-Subic said, when interviewed Saturday.

Authorities are still trying to determine where the boom came from, who brought it near Zambales, and why.

DND ‘disturbed’

Kids play on the boom found off Zambales after it was towed to shore. (Coast Guard photos)

Kids play on the boom found off Zambales after it was towed to shore. (Coast Guard photos)

The Department of National Defense, for its part, said it was “disturbed” over the boom’s discovery.

“This is a disturbing development, given that the booms were supposedly found well within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said.

Iba is only one town away from Masinloc, the municipality which treats Panatag Shoal as part of its territory despite China’s occupation of the rocky outcrop.

“Hinihintay pa namin ang report kung saan galing itong floating object na ito,” Seaman 2nd Rio Omar, of CGS-Subic, said when asked if the boom could have come from Panatag.

China is presently occupying the shoal, which it calls “Huangyan Island,” and has been preventing the entry of Filipino fishermen with its law enforcement ships.

The occupation came after the 2012 standoff with the Philippine Navy, which tried to arrest Chinese poachers at the shoal, which Masinloc has been calling Bajo de Masinloc since the Spanish colonial period. (John Roson)

– end –

Taiwan's cutter 118 (photo from Taiwan Coast Guard website)

Taiwan’s cutter 118 (photo from Taiwan Coast Guard website)

A Taiwan Coast Guard ship launched speedboats and threatened to shoot a Philippine patrol vessel during their standoff over an apprehended fishing boat in waters near Batanes last week, a security official said Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed the incident as the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) confirmed the standoff.

“There came a point na ang sabi nila (Taiwan Coast Guard), ‘Stop, or we will shoot you. Release the boat,'” said the official, who asked not to be named because of the issue’s sensitivity.

That incident occurred inside the “contiguous zone” of the Philippines, the official said.

Earlier Wednesday, PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo confirmed the standoff, saying it occurred 18 nautical miles northeast of Batanes last May 25.

MCS vessels of BFAR. (photo from the Philippines' Official Gazette website)

MCS vessels of BFAR. (photo from the Philippines’ Official Gazette website)

It involved PCG members on a Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (BFAR) and the Taiwan Coast Guard cutter number 118, he said.

The standoff began when Coast Guard personnel apprehended the Taiwanese fishing boat Min Jiang Tsai 6 around 6:25 p.m., Balilo said.

“The PCG was towing the fishing boat when Taiwan Coast Guard cutter 118 appeared and blocked the BFAR vessel and asked for the release of the fishing boat,” Balilo said.

Members of the PCG later released the fishing boat as per instruction by BFAR officers, after “four hours of negotiation” with the Taiwan Coast Guard cutter’s crew, he said.

The source, for his part, said things did not go as smoothly because Taiwan’s Coast Guard made several aggressive attempts to have the fishing boat released.

The cutter, according to the official, launched two speedboats in an apparent attempt to board the fishing boat and wrest it from Filipino law enforcers.

A BFAR MCS vessel docks side by side with a Navy patrol boat in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, one of the staging points of patrols to Batanes (May 2014 photo)

A BFAR MCS vessel docks side by side with a Navy patrol boat in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, one of the staging points of patrols to Batanes (May 2014 photo)

Taiwan’s ship also suddenly “cut” the path of the BFAR MCS-3004 vessel, risking a collision, he said.

A collision would have proven dangerous for the MCS-3004, which is only about 30 meters long as compared to the 63.5-meter Taiwanese cutter, according to the source.

That prompted the MCS-3004 to maneuver away and it went on sailing with the fishing boat in tow, until the cutter made the threat to shoot, the source said.

Only two Philippine Coast Guard members on the vessel had firearms at the time while the cutter, because of its size, is believed to be packing heavy weapons.

“They were outnumbered, outgunned, overpowered… Considering their predicament, ni-release na lang ‘yung fishing boat instead na may mapahamak,” the official said.

The source, meanwhile, revealed that a second incident involving another Taiwan Coast Guard ship occurred on May 28.

This occurred some 12 nautical miles from Batanes’ northernmost Amianan Island which is well within Philippine territory, he said.

The Taiwan Coast Guard ship appeared after PCG personnel drove away another Taiwanese fishing vessel, the source said.

Jovita Ayson, director of BFAR Region 2, said her office is now preparing reports on the incidents and will submit these to BFAR administrator Asis Perez.

Perez, in a text message, said he is out of the country and is still waiting for the reports.

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard and BFAR will continue patrolling waters off Batanes despite the incidents to “deter” foreign poachers, Ayson said. (John Roson)

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The number of people killed in the ship collision off Talisay, Cebu, rose to 38 Sunday as authorities battled with bad weather and an oil spill while retrieving bodies and searching for more survivors, a Coast Guard official said.

Five bodies were recovered by technical divers Sunday near the area where the ill-fated M/V St. Thomas Aquinas sank, raising the number of fatalities to 38, Cmdr. Winiel Azcuna, Coast Guard Station Cebu commander, said.

“They (divers) have not yet penetrated the vessel, the bodies were retrieved outside the vessel, na-trap lang dun sa mga debris,” Azcuna said in a phone interview shortly before 5 p.m.

The technical divers, however, were experiencing difficulty in entering the ship because of strong waves and currents, he said.

“Malakas ‘yung alon and they need to place safety lines nang hindi naman ma-trap sa ilalim ‘yung divers natin,” Azcuna said.

No ‘retrieval’ yet

All missing persons, fatalities and survivors were occupants of the St. Thomas Aquinas, which sank after colliding with M/V Sulpicio Express Siete near Lauis Ledge around 9 p.m. Friday.

Azcuna said there were still no plans to shift to “retrieval” operations because 48 hours have not yet passed since the St. Thomas Aquinas sank.

“As of this time, since the incident transpired, wala pa naman pong 48 hours, so the protocol of the Coast Guard states that it is still search and rescue operation. We will evaluate the situation further if we will downgrade it to retrieval operation, maybe tomorrow or the next day,” he said.

Seventy-five passengers and seven crew members remain missing. The number of survivors is now at 750, broken down as 644 passengers and 106 crew members, he said.

Oil spill poses threat

Aside from the bad sea condition, another challenge for the divers was to avoid the fuel that is now spilling from the St. Thomas Aquinas.

The oil spill has spread towards the shores of Talisay, Cordova town, and Mactan Island so the Coast Guard deployed some of its personnel to contain it, Azcuna said.

“The Philippine Coast Guard has deployed Marine Environment Protection Unit personnel and they are now spraying dispersants, hanggang sa ma-disperse natin itong oil and ma-minimize yung effect of the oil at the shore lines. At the same time, 2Go has accredited Malayan Towage to conduct oil spill containment operations,” he said.

Ship captains in custody

Meanwhile, Azcuna said the captains of both the St. Thomas Aquinas and Sulpicio Express Siete are both alive and are in “temporary custody” of their respective shipping companies.

“There is an agreement between the Coast Guard and the shipping companies that they will make available their captains and crew when the board of marine inquiry in Manila will be convened,” Azcuna noted.

The St. Thomas Aquinas, owned by 2Go Group Inc. was skippered by Capt. Reynan Bermejo. Sulpicio Express Siete is owned by Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp., formerly known as Sulpicio Lines Inc.

Bermejo was among those who were found by local fishermen immediately after the St. Thomas Aquinas sank, according to Lt. Jim Alagao, Armed Forces Central Command public affairs officer. (John Roson)

– end –

this post has been updated. see update here

(Updated 10 a.m.) Thirty-five people died while 630 others were rescued and 216 more remain missing after a passenger vessel collided with a cargo ship and sank in waters off Talisay, Cebu, Friday night, a military official said.

Of the survivors, 247 were brought to different hospitals in Cebu City for treatment and medical checks, Lt. Jim Alagao, Armed Forces’ Central Command (Centcom) public affairs officer, said in a phone interview.

Alagao gave the figures as Navy vessels, Coast Guard ships, and civilian seacraft continued to scour the seas for survivors Saturday.

Navy and Coast Guard divers were also deployed Saturday morning to the collision site, which is about 600 yards (0.54 kilometers) West of Lawis Ledge and 45 fathoms (82.3 meters) deep, Alagao said.

Divers plunged to about 80 feet but were unable to spot the sunken ship because of low visibility, he said.

The missing persons, fatalities, and survivors were all occupants of the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas, Cmdr. Weniel Azcuna, Coast Guard Station Cebu commander, said.

The passenger vessel sank after colliding with the M/V Sulpicio Express 7 around 9 p.m. Friday near Lawis Ledge, Azcuna said.

The St. Thomas Aquinas, owned by 2GO Group Inc., started taking in water right after the collision and was already sinking two hours later, Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, Centcom chief, said.

“‘Yung barko ay nag-take in ng water and is starting to [sink], palubog na… pumapasok na ‘yung water sa hull niya,” Deveraturda said when reached by phone 11 p.m.

In a statement posted on its website, 2GO said the St. Thomas Aquinas’ manifest listed only 723 passengers and 118 crew, or a total of 841 people, as well as 104 equivalent 20-footer container units.

Tallying the number of fatalities, survivors, and missing persons provided by the authorities puts the number of people on the vessel at 881, or 40 more than those in the manifest as claimed by 2GO.

But 2GO said the ship has an authorized capacity of 1,010 passengers and crew, and 160 units of 20-footer containers.

Earlier, Deveraturda said initial reports from the ground indicate that the St. Thomas Aquinas only had 690 passengers.

Minda Morante, Office of Civil Defense-7 director, said she received a “raw infomation” that only more than 400 passengers were listed when the St. Thomas Aquinas left Nasipit Port in Agusan del Norte for Cebu.

“‘Yun ang isa sa mga sinusubukan namng i-confirm dito… ‘Yung ganyan, although raw information, kasi minsan merong mga nakaakyat na sa barko, doon na lang kumukuha ng ticket, hindi mo talaga ma-account yan,” Morante said.

According to 2GO, the St. Thomas Aquinas came from Surigao and Nasipit Port, and headed to Cebu for a 10 p.m. stopover before proceeding to Manila.

The Sulpicio Express-7, on the other hand, had just left Cebu Pier for Davao, Morante said.

“Papasok na siya (M/V St. Thomas Aquinas) sa Cebu City Port, tapos yung isa namang barko from the Cebu City Port, palabas naman, nagpang-abot sila, ganoon ang nangyari,” she said.

Morante said she alerted all hospitals in Talisay and nearby towns upon learning about the mishap because of an expected influx of patients.

“Nag-alerto tayo ng mga ospital na silang lahat ay to recieve and receive, kasi lahat di ‘yun kakayanin ng Talisay District Hospital,” she said.

“Immediately after the collision, the crew of the M/V St. Thomas distributed life jackets to the passengers and carried out emergency abandon-ship procedures. At the same time, the ship’s officers sent a distress signal to the nearest Philippine Coast Guard Station to alert them for immediate rescue operations,” 2GO said for its part.

An emergency operations center was also activated at port to give assistance, including meal packs and dry clothes, to survivors, it said.

“Those needing medical attention have been attended to by onsite medical personnel while others have already been brought to nearby hospitals. The rest of the passengers have been offered accommodations at a nearby hotel,” the company added. (John Roson)

– end –

this post has been updated. see update here

this post has been updated. see update here

Thirteen people died while 572 others were rescued after a passenger vessel collided with a cargo ship and sank in waters off Talisay, Cebu, Friday night, a Coast Guard official said.

Cmdr. Winiel Azcuna, Coast Guard Station Cebu commander, gave the figures as Coast Guard ships, Navy vessels, and other seacraft continued to scour the seas for survivors Saturday morning.

“Maximum number of assets ng Philippine Navy at Philippine Coast Guard ang ating dineploy po doon sa area and kasama din natin ‘yung mga local government units, nagpadala sila ng mga bangka para mag-rescue ng mga pasahero nung lumubog na barko,” Azcuna said in a phone interview 4 a.m.

A total of 321 people are still “missing or unaccounted for,” Lt. Jim Alagao, public affairs officer of the Armed Forces’ Central Command (Centcom), said in a text message.

Navy and Coast Guard divers were deployed Saturday morning to the collision site, which is about 600 yards (0.54 kilometers) West of Lawis Ledge and 45 fathoms (82.3 meters) deep, Alagao added.

The missing persons, fatalities, and survivors were all occupants of the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas, which sank after colliding with the M/V Sulpicio Express-7 around 9 p.m. Friday near Lawis Ledge, Azcuna said.

The St. Thomas Aquinas, owned by 2GO Group Inc., started taking in water right after the collision and was already sinking two hours later, Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, Centcom chief, said.

“‘Yung barko ay nag-take in ng water and is starting to [sink], palubog na… pumapasok na ‘yung water sa hull niya,” Deveraturda said when reached by phone 11 p.m.

In a statement posted on its website, 2GO said the St. Thomas Aquinas’ manifest listed 723 passengers and 118 crew, or a total of 841 people, as well as 104 equivalent 20-footer container units.

Tallying the number of fatalities, survivors, and missing persons provided by authorities would show that there were 906 people on the vessel, 65 more than those in the manifest.

But 2GO said the ship has an authorized capacity of 1,010 passengers and crew, and 160 units of 20-footer containers.

Earlier, Deveraturda said initial reports from the ground indicate that the St. Thomas Aquinas only had 690 passengers.

Minda Morante, Office of Civil Defense-7 director, said she received a “raw infomation” that only more than 400 passengers were listed when the St. Thomas Aquinas left Nasipit Port in Agusan del Norte for Cebu.

“‘Yun ang isa sa mga sinusubukan namng i-confirm dito… ‘Yung ganyan, although raw information, kasi minsan merong mga nakaakyat na sa barko, doon na lang kumukuha ng ticket, hindi mo talaga ma-account yan,” Morante said.

According to 2GO, the St. Thomas Aquinas came from Surigao and Nasipit Port, and headed to Cebu for a 10 p.m. stopover before proceeding to Manila.

The Sulpicio Express-7, on the other hand, had just left Cebu Pier for Davao, Morante said.

“Papasok na siya (M/V St. Thomas Aquinas) sa Cebu City Port, tapos yung isa namang barko from the Cebu City Port, palabas naman, nagpang-abot sila, ganoon ang nangyari,” she said.

Morante said she alerted all hospitals in Talisay and nearby towns upon learning about the mishap because of an expected influx of patients.

“Nag-alerto tayo ng mga ospital na silang lahat ay to recieve and receive, kasi lahat di ‘yun kakayanin ng Talisay District Hospital,” she said.

“Immediately after the collision, the crew of the M/V St. Thomas distributed life jackets to the passengers and carried out emergency abandon-ship procedures. At the same time, the ship’s officers sent a distress signal to the nearest Philippine Coast Guard Station to alert them for immediate rescue operations,” 2GO said for its part.

An emergency operations center was also activated at port to give assistance, including meal packs and dry clothes, to survivors, it said.

“Those needing medical attention have been attended to by onsite medical personnel while others have already been brought to nearby hospitals. The rest of the passengers have been offered accommodations at a nearby hotel,” the company added. (John Roson)

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this post has been updated. see update here

Authorities are investigating the Chinese vessel found near Malapascua Island, Cebu, for possible illegal activities, including quarrying sand and pebbles, officials said Saturday.

Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, Coast Guard spokesman, said there have been reports that the M/V Ming Yuan had been used to carry sand and pebbles from areas surrounding Malapascua.

“We are pursuing reports that the vessel is utilized in transporting white sand and pebbles from nearby islands,” Balilo said in a text message.

A team is now monitoring Malapascua and nearby areas “for possible illegal extraction or siphoning of white sand,” Dr. Eddie Llamedo, information officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Central Visayas, said when sought for more details.

The team comprises personnel of the DENR-Central Visayas, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Coast Guard, police, and the local government of Daanbantayan town, which has jurisdiction of Malapascua, he said.

Llamedo said the reports of quarrying came about after a Chinese vessel was seen, allegedly “siphoning” white sand, off Malapascua earlier this month.

A Chinese vessel was inspected on June 15, but authorities did not find white sand on it, he said.

Llamedo could not say if the inspected vessel was also the M/V Ming Yuan.

Meanwhile, Balilo said immigration officials have confiscated the passports of the crew members of M/V Ming Yuan, though the crew members were allowed to remain on the vessel.

While the probe is going on, the ship was also ordered to stay away from Malapascua, which is popular among tourists for its white sand beaches.

“Since the vessel was anchored on a passenger vessel route and posing as hazard to navigation, the vessel was directed to anchor in Northern Cebu while government agencies are investigating possible illegal activities of the shipping company,” Balilo said.

Llamedo said Malapascua is not listed among the country’s “protected areas,” but should be protected just the same because it is public property.

“Because of its being a small island or islet that is less than 250 hectares, it is considered as public land, meaning it is owned by the state or government,” he said. (John Roson)

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The Philippine Coast Guard on Friday said it fired upon one of four Taiwanese fishing vessels that entered the country’s territorial waters, leaving one fisherman dead.

Coast Guard commandant Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena said the shooting occurred around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, while a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel (MCS 3001) operated by PCG personnel was patrolling the Balintang Channel off Batanes.

The PCG personnel encountered four foreign fishing vessels within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and tried to board one of them, but another “repeatedly tried to ram our MCS,” Isorena said in a statement.

He said this prompted the Coast Guard personnel on board the MCS to fire “warning shots” and later on, shoot the vessel’s machinery portion “to disable” it.

“While the maneuver is happening, our MCS detected the presence of unidentified grey and white ships, forcing them to withdraw and return back to port,” Isorena said.

He said the personnel on board the MCS were not able to immediately verify what happened to the fishing vessel, and the PCG only learned Friday that one of the Taiwanese fishermen died.

Isorena said that while the PCG considers the incident as “very unfortunate,” more effort will be done to secure the country’s waters.

“Efforts will be instituted to prevent similar occurrences. The government will increase our visibility in the area to prevent future incursion of our waters,” the PCG chief said.

“We sympathize with the family of the fisherman who died and we assure them of a transparent and impartial investigation. The PCG will relieve all personnel on board MCS 3001 of their duties while the investigation is ongoing,” he added.

Earlier, China’s state-owned Xinhua News Agency earlier reported that a Filipino “military ship” opened fire on a Taiwanese fishing boat on Thursday, about 180 nautical miles southeast of Erluanbi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan.

“After killing the fisherman, the Filipino military ship continued to chase and fire in bursts at the Taiwanese vessel,” Xinhua said, citing information from Taiwan’s fishing authority and media.

Maj. Ramon Zagala, chief of the Armed Forces’ public affairs office, said that contrary to the report, the incident involved a “Coast Guard-controlled” BFAR vessel.

Zagala, however, said the incident occurred within the Philippines’ “territorial waters.”

“Since the incident occurred within our territorial waters, it is therefore within the jurisdiction of our coast guard,” Zagala said in a statement.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, the Navy’s spokesman for issues in the West Philippine Sea, also denied Xinhua’s report.

Commodore Nodolfo Tejada, commander of the Naval Forces Northern Luzon, reported Thursday night that all Navy vessels under his command were in ports in Subic or Sual, Pangasinan, Arevalo said. (John Roson)

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A Chinese fishing vessel ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef on Monday night, just days after a US Navy ship was removed from the protected marine biodiversity area, authorities said Tuesday.

The fishing boat ran aground at the southern portion of the reef’s North Islet around 11:45 p.m., Navy spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said, citing a report from Tubbataha Reef park superintendent Angelique Songco.

The boat, which bears the number 63168, has 12 crew members on board, Arevalo said.

Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, Coast Guard spokesman, said one of their search and rescue vessels was sent to the scene to help park rangers investigate.

The BRP Romblon (SARV 3503) arrived at the site around 10:55 a.m. Tuesday and confirmed the grounding of the 20-meter long boat, he said.

“Ang plano is kapag nag-refloat yung fishing boat due to high tide, eescortan ito dun sa Puerto Princesa City then dadalhin ‘yung crew sa National Committee on Illegal Entrants. Kung poachers sila, kakasuhan,” Balilo said in a phone interview.

Should the fishing boat fail to refloat, its crew members will be taken to Puerto Princesa on board the BRP Romblon, he said.

The grounding occurred just 10 days after authorities finished removing the USS Guardian’s wreckage at the reef’s South Atoll on March 30.

The Guardian, which ran aground on Jan. 17 after making a port call in Subic Bay, Zambales, damaged 2,345.67 square meters of coral, according to the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO).

The US government will be fined $1.5 million, or P58.4 million, for the Guardian’s grounding, the TMO said. (John Roson)

– end –

At least 1,000 square meters of the Tubbataha Reef in Palawan was damaged because of the grounding of the US Navy ship USS Guardian, the Coast Guard said.

“Initially, 1,000 square meters of the reef was damaged,” Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo said, citing results of an investigation by Joint Task Force Tubbataha.

The task force, led by Department of Transportation and Communications Usec. Eduardo Oban, is still conducting “further assessments,” Balilo said.

Members of the task force include the Coast Guard, AFP Western Command (Westcom), Philippine Navy, Tubbataha Management Office, and local government units.

A Nomad plane of the Air Force conducted another reconnaissance flight over Tubbataha on Wednesday morning, according to Westcom.

A rubber boat, apparently from the US, was seen approaching the USS Guardian around 8 a.m., a Westcom official said.

The USS Guardian, a minesweeper, ran aground at the reef’s “South Atoll” on Jan. 17, three days after making a port call in Subic Bay, Zambales. (John Roson)

– end –