Philippines launches independent probe on stuck U.S. Navy ship

2013-02-01 09:32:03 GMT2013-02-01 17:32:03(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

MANILA, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has started its independent inquiry to determine the real circumstances surrounding the grounding of the United States Navy minesweeper in Tubbataha Reef off Sulu Sea.

PCG Commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said Friday that a Maritime Casualty Investigation Team (MCIT) was created to gather the physical and documentary evidence needed to know why the U.S. Navy vessel strayed into the protected area. This, even after the park rangers manning the reef warned them that they were dangerously treading a sheltered area.

He said that Rear Admiral Luis Tuason, who heads PCG's MCIT, met with Rear Admiral Thomas Carney, the on-scene commander of the salvage operations to gather technical data on the maritime incident.

The MCIT was created on top of the Task Force Tubbataha that was formed right after USS Guardian ran aground in the maritime protected area on Jan. 17.

Concerned government officials already briefed President Benigno Aquino III on the situation at the Tubbataha Reef on Friday.

Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino asked for the timetable in salvaging the vessel, but he did not give any deadline.

The president was also informed that the United States has decided to disassemble the vessel before vertically extricating it from the site instead of physically lifting the whole ship, she added.

The USS Guardian, which came from a port call in Subic Bay in northern Philippine province of Zambales, was enroute to its next port of destination when it ran aground in Tubbataha Reef almost two weeks ago. It has been stuck in the reef since then. The task force has initially estimated that 1,000 square meters of the corals have been damaged.

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