Jerry E. Esplanada and Michael Lim Ubac -
The USS Guardian has damaged “more or less 1,000 square meters” of the Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Sea, the spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Contacted by phone, Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo on Wednesday said the government task force coordinating with the US Navy regarding salvage efforts on the grounded US Navy minesweeper learned about the extent of the damage from PCG divers who checked out the reefs on Tuesday.
“Two Coast Guard teams, composed of 14 divers in two rubber boats, were involved in the operation,” said Balilo.
At least 50 PCG personnel, including the crew of the search-and-rescue vessel BRP Corregidor, and an undisclosed number of crew members of three Philippine Navy boats, are in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.
Aside from the USS Guardian which has been stuck on the reef since Jan. 17, two other US Navy ships are also in the area. “A US Navy supply ship has just arrived,” Balilo said.
When interviewed, he quoted Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena, PCG commandant, as having said there was “good coordination” between the task force and its American counterpart.