Task Force Tubbataha sets Mar. 23 deadline

File photo of crane ship Jascon-25, which has begun dismantling the USS Guardian, a minesweeper that ran aground on tubbataha Reef last month. Courtesy of Coast Guard
The Philippines and the United States have jointly set a March 23 deadline for the completion of the salvaging operation of the USS Guardian that ran aground last month in the Tubbataha Reef, an area declared by the  World Heritage site. Cdr. Armand Balilo, Philippine Coast Guard chief information officer, said the Malaysian ship-borne crane Jascon-25 has begun dismantling the minesweeper on Monday with the help of other salvage ships. “We received information from the Task Force Tubbataha that they have started lifting some parts of the USS Guardian. The operation will continue because right now, there is a good weather condition in the area,” he said. Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, Coast Guard Palawan district commander, said the salvaging operations is on-going for the clearing of equipment below the ship’s weather deck as well as the removal of sonar winch at the bow while the team is already done with lifting of the funnel section. Other than Jascon-25, the vessels present along the salvaging site includes the Singapore-based Smit Borneo crane barge, USNS Salvor, USNS Safeguard, USNS Wally Schirra, M/Tug Archon Tide, M/Tug Intrepid, M/Tug Trabajador-1 and Barge S-7000 of the Malayan Towage and Coast Guard ship BRP-Pampanga. Evangelista assured the public that the salvaging team continues the clearing of loose materials in the USS Guardian to prevent it from further damaging the reef. The US government commissioned Jascon-25, an 800-ton Malaysian ship, to cut into pieces the US minesweeper with the use of power tools. The USS Guardian will be cut into ten sections such as mast, funnel, first and second deck, stack, pulley, fan tail, engine and hull before it will be transferred to a barge.
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