The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - The salvage of the stranded United States Navy minesweeper USS Guardian from Tubbatah Reef in Sulu Sea was stalled anew due to giant waves, Philippine Coast Guard Palawan district commander Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista said on Tuesday.
“As of this time, salvage operations have not yet commenced due to unfavorable weather condition at the site...” Evangelista said.
“The sea condition is very unsafe. We always give paramount consideration to the safety of our salvor team and also to prevent further damage on the reef,” he added.
The minesweeper has been stuck on the marine sanctuary since January 17 and has reportedly destroyed more than 4,000 square meters of the supposedly no-navigation World Heritage Site. The U.S. government has pledged to pay for the damage.
Evangelista said the salvage team on board crane ship Jascon 25 was about to begin the cutting and lifting of the parts of USS Guardian's lower deck when the bad weather struck.
Earlier, the U.S. Navy said it would finish removing the grounded minesweeper of the 7th Fleet on or before March 23.
A fisherfolk alliance and a party-list group are urging the Philippine government to bring back to the country the Navy officials and the 79 crew members of USS Guardian.
While waiting for the formal charges against them, the U.S. Navy men should be extradited to the Philippines from their homeport in Sasebo, Japan, according to the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas and Anakpawis partylist.
They said President Benigno Aquino III “should order” the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice to work on the extradition of the Navy men.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Manila on Tuesday said USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), the flagship of the US 7thFleet, would arrive in Manila on Thursday, March 7.
“[It] will dock at the manila South Harbor on Thursday for a routine port call and goodwill visit that highlights the strong historic, community, and military connections between the United States and the Philippines,” it said in a statement.