The Navy has announced that the minesweeper, USS Guardian, which ran up on Tubbataha reef in the Philippines Sula Sea two weeks ago, will be cut up in place and hauled away. The reason given is that the approach will “involve the least damage to the Tubbataha Reef.” They had previously determined that the fiberglass sheathed wooden ship was too damaged to float if towed off the reef. Depending on the availability of crane vessels, the Navy may have had no other choice.
All indications are that the electronic charts had the reef miss-plotted by roughly eight nautical miles. The larger question, however, is what the minesweeper was doing so close to the reef which is part of the Philippines’ Tubbataha National Marine Park and a designated World Heritage Site. Reportedly, the ship was warned that it was in protected area and that it was approaching the reef, but apparently ignored the warnings. Thus far the grounding is reported to have damaged around 1,000 square meters of coral reef or about 1% of the reef withing the park. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III is demanding an explanation as to why the ship grounded onthe reef.