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Coral Reef Will Serve as Industrial 'Operating Table' for US Naval Ship

Operation expected to take at least a month

- Common Dreams staff

In order to be removed from a coral reef in the Philippines, a US Naval ship will be cut into pieces by salvage workers, effectively turning the protected marine reserve into an industrial operating table, imperiling the fragile ecosystem with a project that could take months to complete.

The mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian ran aground on Tubbataha Reef on January 17. (Photograph: U.S. Navy courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command) After running aground of the Tubbataha Reef off the Philippines on January 17 and destroying more than 1,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the US military now says no other viable option remains to remove the USS Guardian, a naval minesweeper ship.

The Tubbataha National Marine Park— famous is known for its rich marine life and—has already been substantially damaged by the ship, prompting environmental advocates in the Philippines to decry the Navy's actions and call for an investigation into why the ship was traveling through a protected marine sanctuary.

Clemente Bautista, national coordinator for environmental network Kalikasan, said following the crash, “At this moment USS Guardian is stuck atop Tubbataha Reef and continues to wreck our national treasure. The US officials until now offer no clear explanation as to why their ship trespassed into the marine sanctuary.”

The head of the agency supervising the sanctuary said that the captain of the ship ignored warnings that it was nearing the reef. The agency recommended the US Navy be fined for "unauthorised entry" into the area, AFP reported.

Buatista added, "There is really no equivalent monetary compensation for the US Navy’s disrespect for Philippine authorities and their trampling of the country’s sovereignty."

Poor sea conditions and the impossible position of the USS Guardian have hindered efforts to tow the ship from the reef, Capt. Darryn James, spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, told ABC News. As a result, the Navy will bring in two heavy lift ship-born cranes on Friday to begin to salvage the ship over the next month.

ABC reports:

“The ship is badly damaged,” said James. According to James the team of naval architecture and salvage efforts working to free the minesweeper determined that “after a full review of all possible alternatives, our only viable option is to dismantle the damaged ship and remove it in sections.”

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