MANILA - The US Navy may start dismantling on Sunday a minesweeper that ran aground at Tubbataha Reef last January 17, the Philippine Coast Guard said Wednesday.
This, after the US Navy's plan to remove the USS Guardian was approved by the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board, Philippine Coast Guard commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said.
"The salvage plan was already approved, the plan is already a go," Isorena said.
"There is already a written approval from the board. We got it (approval) before lunch. Immediately upon receipt, we communicated with US that it's (salvage plan) is a go," he added.
A crane barge, the SMIT Borneo, has arrived in the area to help remove the stricken vessel. Another crane barge, the Jascon 25, is also expected to arrive soon.
Isorena said US Navy ships and the barges will be placed in position first before the actual salvaging will take place.
"Maybe after four days, maybe Sunday or Monday. They would start, depending on the weather," he said.
The Tubbataha board also wants a thorough assessment on the damage sustained by the reef assessed before and after the salvage operation.
"They set a condition to conduct assessment before the start of the operation which we are actually going to do. In fact, we conducted a joint assessment this morning," Isorena said.
"We are conducting an assessment before the start of the operations on Sunday or Monday. After the removal of the ship, we will again conduct a joint assessment to determine if there is further damage to the reef," he added.
According to the board, the ship has either damaged or destroyed at least 4,000 square meters of corals at the reef.