Tag Archive: USS Guardian

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)

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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)

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Tubbataha management to fine US Navy

Big waves slamming the USS Guardian at Tubbataha Reef (photo from AFP Western Command)

Big waves slamming the USS Guardian at Tubbataha Reef (photo from AFP Western Command)

The agency supervising the Tubbataha Reef in Palawan said it will fine the US Navy for the damage caused by the grounding of the USS Guardian at the natural park.

“We will ask them (US Navy) to take responsibility, and immediately pay the fines that can be estimated at this time,” the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) said in a statement.

The statement was issued Tuesday afternoon after Palawan Gov. Abraham Khalil Mitra, who co-chairs the TPAMB, called for a board meeting.

“This is an unfortunate incident. No one wanted this to happen. But, damage has been done,” the board said.

Under Republic Act No. 10067, the TPAMB is tasked to protect, preserve, and promote the resources of Tubbataha Reef.

“We are duty-bound to enforce the law. In order to fulfill our mandate and uphold the rule of law, it is the TPAMB’s intention to serve the US Navy with a formal notice listing violations of the law,” the board said.

Among the violations “evident at this time,” are unauthorized entry, non-payment of conservation fees, damages to the reef, and destruction of resources, according to the TPAMB.

“The park has suffered physical damage, the extent of which cannot be accurately estimated at this time,” the board said.

The board said it will also sue the US Navy for obstruction of law enforcement.

Earlier, the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) said the USS Guardian did not inform park rangers of its presence and situation and was only discovered via radar.

“Marine park rangers radioed the USS Guardian, introducing themselves as law enforcers. They informed them of their violations and announced their intention to board the vessel. However, upon approaching, they saw soldiers taking position with their weapons and, since radio contact was unanswered, the boarding protocol was aborted,” the TMO said.

“The ship’s commander ordered a general alert and deployed personnel into battle position when our rangers tried to approach their ship to assess the situation, forcing them to back off,” Tubbataha park superintendent Angelique Songco said.

The USS Guardian, an Avenger-class minesweeper, run aground at the Tubbataha Reef on Jan. 17, three days after making a port call at the former US naval base in Subic Bay, Zambales. (John Roson)

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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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