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Aquino approves US Navy’s plan to salvage ship

In this Jan. 22, 2013 photo released by the Philippine Coast Guard, coast guard divers approach the USS Guardian, a U.S. Navy minesweeper, to assess the situation after it ran aground last week off Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea, 640 kilometers (400 miles) southwest of Manila, Philippines. A U.S. Navy official said the USS Guardian was punctured and was taking in water and has to be lifted off the rocks. (MNS photo)

MANILA, Feb 7 (Mabuhay) – President Benigno Aquino III has already approved the United States Navy’s plan to extricate the USS Guardian at the Tubbataha Reef, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said Thursday.

Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, commander of PCG Palawan District and head of task force Tubbataha, said the President approved last night the salvage operations for the USS Guardian.

PCG commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said: “Baka po kung maganda ang panahon baka sa Sunday o Monday e makapagsimula na sila, kasi ‘yung prepositioning ng barko may take one or two days… and then siguro on the fourth day saka sila mag-start ng actual operations.”

The US Navy earlier said the “sectioning” of the USS Guardian in several parts appeared to be less destructive. Around 4000 square meters of the World Heritage Site has already been flattened.

Separately, Evangelista said the rigging of the four anchors and the pre-positioning of the Smit Borneo, a salvage ship, are still ongoing. He said the rigging might take two days because it has to be precise in order to prevent any further damage to the reef.

Soon after, heavy equipment like blowers, pumps and other tools will be transferred to the USS Guardian. By that time, containment barriers and safety nets will be put into place.

He added the initial ecological assessment before the operation was done yesterday but the PCG is still waiting for the results. Weather in Tubbataha is favorable today.

Representatives from the US coastguard had visited the PCG office to check on the ongoing operations.

Evangelista added the other crane ship, Jascon, is still in Singapore finalizing its contract. (MNS)

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