SULU SEA (Jan. 29, 2013) Heavy waves crash against the grounded mine countermeasure ship USS Guardian (MCM 5), which ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea on Jan. 17. U.S. Navy Photo

SULU SEA (Jan. 29, 2013) Heavy waves crash against the grounded mine countermeasure ship USS Guardian (MCM 5), which ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea on Jan. 17. U.S. Navy Photo

The operation to remove the grounded USS Guardian from a reef in the Philippines may take months, the state-run Philippines News Agency reported Wednesday.

According to the PNA report, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commander Rear Admiral Rodulfo Isorena, said that removing the grounded USS Guardian off the South Atoll of the Tubbataha Reefs National Park (TRNP) may take until April.

The 224-foot minesweeper had just completed a port call at Subic Bay in the Philippines when the ship ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef on January 17. FULL COVERAGE

The plan remains to dismantle the USS Guardian and remove it in sections in order to best protect the reef from further destruction and speed up the operation. The contracted crane barge, SMIT Borneo, arrived in the Philippines on Sunday to assist with the operation and is currently anchored at the wreck site in about 2,500 feet of water. Isorena also added that crews hope to start the salvage operation as soon as possible to avoid further damage to the reef, according to the PNA report.

The operation to remove 15,000 gallons of fuel and other contaminants was completed on January 25th. So far about 4,000 square meters of reef is believed to have been damaged.

In a joint statement yesterday by the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs and U.S. Embassy, U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr. reiterated his regrets over the grounding and assured Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario that the United States will provide appropriate compensation for damage to the reef caused by the ship. The two governments also agreed to cooperate during investigations of the grounding incident.

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