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Salvage crane arrives in Palawan

MANILA, Philippines - A salvage crane contracted to help extract the USS Guardian from Tubbataha Reef in Palawan arrived in the country yesterday, a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) official said.

PCG spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo said the Smit Borneo arrived in Puerto Princesa City at 7 a.m. yesterday and will undergo normal Customs procedures.

“There will be a coordinating meeting tomorrow (Monday) with them to discuss the salvage plan,” Balilo said.

The salvaging operation for the USS Guardian is expected to start on Wednesday.

Smit Borneo, a Singapore-based towing vessel equipped with a crane, had been scheduled to arrive Friday, but rough sea conditions and slow travel speed of five knots caused a delay, said Coast Guard Palawan district chief Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista.

He said the crew of Smit Borneo would be supplied with food provisions for 100 days.

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The US Navy said the dismantlement on site would be a better option in extricating the minesweeper, as it would cause less damage to the environment.

The minesweeper ran aground on Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17, destroying at least 1,000 square meters of coral reefs.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the Tubbataha Reef a World Heritage Site in December 1993.

Damage to the reef spans an area of over 4,000 square meters, Angelique Songco, head of the marine park’s monitors said Saturday.

 She said the most recent damage assessment showed that the area the US minesweeper has affected is much larger than the initial estimate of 1,000 sqm.

US will compensate Phl

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Manila said it will organize a roundtable in the next two weeks with local coral reef conservation experts to discuss options for the restoration and conservation of Tubbataha Reef.

The embassy said the US government will also offer to fund a site survey for proposed improvements to the existing ranger station on Tubbataha Reef.

It will invite groups such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US National Oceanic Agency and Atmospheric Agency (NOOA), other relevant Philippine government agencies and the Tubbataha Management Office to the discussion.  – Rainier Allan Ronda


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