MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Initial findings by the United States Navy show that the accident in the Tubbataha Reef was caused by inaccurate navigation data, leading the USS Guardian to run aground and get stuck on the reef.
Major Oliver Bañaria of the of the Army Western Command received an e-mail from the US Embassy stating that according to the initial findings, faulty digital nautical charts caused the US Navy to misplace the location of the Tubbataha Reef.
After completing a port call at the Subic Bay, the Guardian ran into the Tubbataha Reef about 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan early morning last Thursday, damaging at least 10 feet of the reef.
The remaining crew members of the USS Guardian are still working to find out the safest method to extract the ship.
Tug boats and three ships from the Philippine Navy are still in the area, awaiting for the US Navy’s call for assistance.
Meanwhile, the local government of Palawan is asking the US Navy to pay for the damage to the Tubbataha Reef.
Strong winds and huge waves have caused the ship to move parallel to the reef, causing more damage to the corals.
Palawan Governor Abraham Kahlil Mitra and the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) have said that it will take 20 to 100 years before the corals damaged by the USS Guardian can grow back.
The Tubbataha Reef is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the coral triangle and is home to thousands of marine species.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is sending its own divers to Tubbataha Reef to check on the extent of damage after a U.S. Navy ship ran aground, destroying the famous coral reefs.
The BFAR said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) could use the expertise of the agency in assessing the damage.
Earlier, fears mounted over the extent of destruction to marine resources in Tubbataha, which has been named a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
US officials said in a statement on Saturday that “every effort is being made to ensure the safety of the coral reef.”
“The full extent of any damage to the reef cannot be determined until the ship is freed from the reef. There are no reports of leaking of fuel or oil from the ship,” the US embassy said.
At least 10 meters of coral at approximately 80 miles east-southern of Palawan have been damaged by the 68-meter USS Guardian. -- With report from ANC