The board in charge of protecting the Tubbataha Reef, where the USS Guardian ran aground last month, has approved a U.S. Navy plan to cut the ship into pieces in order to remove it safely from the area, according to GMA News.
The Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board gave the go-ahead to the plan Tuesday evening Philippines time.
The United States and Philippines governments released a joint statement that reads:
The two governments agreed to continue to work closely together as the salvage operation and the investigation into the grounding proceed. Both governments agree that preventing further damage to the reef is a top priority.
(You can see the Navy's salvage plan, outlined by Phillipines television news station ABS-CBN News, in the video posted up top.)
Meanwhile, Stars and Stripes reports the same board rejected the Navy's assessment of the damage the Guardian has caused the environmentally-sensitive Tubbataha Reef.
Tubbataha Reef park administrator Angelique Songco told Stars and Stripes:
“The U.S. Navy assessment has been rejected because it involved none of the Philippine personnel that are in the area, despite the fact that earlier agreements with the U.S. Navy specify the involvement of local enforcers.
“Their biologist was in the park for 10 days but did not once contact marine park rangers or Coast Guard personnel for a joint assessment. Our rangers have been unable to complete their work because they are not allowed in the vicinity or told to stay at least five meters away from the ship.”
As Home Post has previously reported, on January 17 the Guardian ran aground on Tubbataha Reef while transiting the Sulu Sea, approximately 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan Island.