Tourists, divers still banned from going in Tubbataha grounding site

The salvage efforts for the ex-USS Guardian (MCM-5) may have been completed last Black Saturday but the order banning tourists and divers from going over the site where the minesweeper ran aground still remains, the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reiterated Tuesday.

Both agencies said divers are still not allowed at two of the 15 Tubbataha diving sites - particularly those near the salvage site. Angelique Songco, TMO chief, said salvage crews are still cleaning up debris from the stricken vessel.

For his part, PCG Palawan District head Commodore Enrico Evangelista said they may meet with Philippine scientists and US Navy marine biologists for the reef rehabilitation.

Last March, Evangelista said tourists and divers visiting Tubbataha Reef may be allowed to view the salvage operations from a distance but may not take photos of the operations.

He said they were maintaining a 500-meter radius around the salvage site. The USS Guardian ran aground at Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17. The TMO initially estimates some 4,000 square meters of the reef had been damaged.