Aerial view of the US Navy ship USS Guardian aground on the Tubbataha Reef, western Philippines, on 19 January 2013. Photo: Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (AFP-WESCOM)

By Craig Brown
21 January 2013

(Common Dreams) – The US Navy minesweeper that smashed into the World Heritage-listed coral reef off the Philippines coast last week ignored warnings to avoid the area, according to a Philippine government official.

The comments from the superintendent of Tubbataha Marine Park, Angelique Songco, added to growing anger in the Philippines over the incident, for which the US Navy may face fines.

According to The Navy Times, the 79 US Navy personnel aboard abandoned ship and the minesweeper is taking on water, “multiple spaces” are flooded.

Park rangers radioed the USS Guardian to advise it was nearing the Tubbataha Reef on Thursday, but the ship captain radioed back telling park rangers to bring their complaint to the US embassy, Ms Songco told reporters on Monday.

Songco blamed the USS Guardian for turning away park rangers who were about to follow protocol by boarding the ship to check if it had the proper permits, but saw the minesweeper's crewmembers were in "battle position."

Shortly after the warning, the US ship rammed into the Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Sulu Sea about 130 kilometers south east of the western island of Palawan.

The site is protected by Philippine law and is off-limits to navigation except for research or tourism approved by Ms Songco's office.

Ms Songco said it was too early to assess the how severe the damage to the corals is, with the vessel still stuck on the reef and being battered by big waves.

According to Reuters, Philippine President Benigno Aquino has given orders to not allow the U.S. Navy to attempt to salvage the minesweeper without Philippine involvement, in order to minimize damage to coral reefs. [more]

US Navy Ship Ignored Warning Before Ramming Pristine Coral Reef via Wit's End

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