(Lead) USS Guardian lifted off Tubbataha Saturday

March 31, 2013 10:41 am 

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, March 30 — Naval Forces West commander Commodore Rustom Peña said the salvage operation team under the Task Force Tubbataha has lifted the grounded USS Guardian off the South Atoll of the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park.

This ended more than two months of recovery and retrieval activities in the area since middle of January.

Although details of the graduation day of the operation are still barely available, and pending the announcement of the TFT, Peña said the salvage team has finished the retrieval of the remaining body of the minesweeper vessel Saturday.

Saying the announcement will come from Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-Palawan District, the top ranking navy official in the province said the last of the segmented hull of the USS Guardian had now been loaded by Jascon 25 to a tow vessel still in Tubbataha as of this writing.

Peña said the salvage team will proceed next to clearing debris and other fragments of the USS Guardian to clean up the area where it got stuck stranded.

“Ang alam ko ay tapos na ngayon, pero wala pang report from the Coast Guard. Hinihintay din namin ang report, pero ang alam ko tapos na as of today (What I know is that it’s over, but there’s still no report from the Coast Guard. We are also waiting for the report, but I know it is already finished as of today),” Peña said, referring to the 223-footer USS Guardian.

On Jan 17, the U.S. Navy minesweeper got beached on the South Atoll of the Tubbataha, sparking widespread criticisms from environment organizations in the Philippines and all over the world, for causing damage to a known marine protected area whose coral reefs are a favorite diving destination.

The U.S. government has expressed sympathy and has made an apology to the Filipino nation for the massive damage the ship had caused; but until today, it has failed to recompense the Philippines.

Per initial record, around 4,000 coral reefs were reported to have been destroyed by the USS Guardian. But Evangelista said earlier that the figure might increase since a post-assessment of the corals still has to be made. (PNA)

HBC/CARF/MEC

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