Damage of Tubbataha Reef to grounding of Chinese fishing vessel not as large - PCG

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Tuesday said that the damage sustained by Tubbataha Reef from the grounding of the Chinese fishing vessel Monday midnight might not be as those caused by the USS Guardian last Jan. 17.

Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, PCG spokesperson, said that the Chinese ship, with hull number 63168, is a lot smaller than the ill-fated American minesweeper.

The USS Guardian, which ran aground the reef last Jan. 17, has a length of 224 feet, with a width of 39 feet and a displacement of 1,300 tons.

It was found to have damaged 2,345.67 square meters of the reef. The US government faces a fine of P58.4 million for the incident.

In Monday night's incident, an initial investigation showed the Chinese fishing vessel, which is only 20 meters long, ran aground Tubbataha Reef shortly before midnight, 1.1 nautical miles from the ranger station.

Balilo said Coast Guard commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena has ordered the tight guarding of the 12 Chinese fishermen. He also said they have instructions to escort the vessel to Puerto Princesa City as soon as it can be removed from the area.

Balilo also said it may be up to the Tubbataha Management Office to file charges against the fishermen if they were found to have poached in Philippine waters.