MANILA, Philippines – The US Navy minesweeper ship USS Guardian damaged at least 1,000 square meters of coral reefs in Tubbataha Reef in Palawan when it ran aground Thursday, according to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, spokesman of the PCG, said the estimated damage was based on the assessment jointly conducted by the PCG, US Navy, and Philippine Navy.
“They measure it (damage) during diving operations,” he said.
Balilo said the US Navy has raised three options in removing the ship, which include chopping up the ship part by part.
“There are three options raised by the US Navy. First is to pullout the ship, second is lift it and third is chop it up. But nothing is final yet though it appears that they are inclined to lift it because it’s the less damaging,” he said.
"Those are their standard options. Those are what they usually do in salvage operations. These three are their standard approaches. Nothing is final yet. They are still studying the best approach in the salvage operation,” he added.
Commodore Joseph Rustom Peña, commander of the Naval Forces West, also said lifting the ship is the best approach to avoid further damage to the reefs.
"Lifting it is less destructive. If you are going to pull it, it may cause further damage (to the reef). If you are going to lift it, that’s the advantage. It can also be cut but we don’t know how hazardous would it be and how long will that take,” said Peña.
Meanwhile, Task Force Tubbataha, composed of officials from the PCG, Department of Transportation and Communications, and Philippine Navy is continuously coordinating with the US Navy in the ship’s extraction.
The US Navy has apologized for the incident.