(Nightlead) US vessel runs aground in Tubbataha Reef — DFA

January 17, 2013 10:55 pm 

By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, Jan. 17 –- A visiting US Navy vessel ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef, a protected marine sanctuary, off Sulu Sea Thursday while on its way to its next port call, the Dept. of Foreign Affairs said.

Tubbataha, a popular dive site teeming with rich and endangered marine resources and corals, has been listed by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site.

The incident involving the USS Guardian, which has a crew of 80, happened at about 2:25 p.m., the DFA said. No one was reported injured.

“It remains stuck on the reef as the crew is still determining the best way to safely extract the ship,” said Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez.

The grounding happened while the ship was transiting the Sulu Sea on its way to its next destination after its port call on the former American naval base in Subic Bay, Zambales.

Hernandez said the cause of the grounding is still under investigation.

The DFA, Hernandez added, is closely coordinating this matter with the US Embassy and the Dept. of National Defense, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard.

“We expect that relevant agencies of the Philippine government will conduct their own investigation, assess the impact of the incident on the reef, and recommend any and all actions that must be taken,” Hernandez said.

He said the government’s “main concern” is to “ensure safety of navigation in the area and to mitigate this incident's impact in the reef which is natural and national treasure.” (PNA)

HBC/MDC/ABB

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