PCG ship arrives in Tubbataha grounding site of Chinese fishing vessel

The BRP Romblon, a search-and-rescue vessel of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) arrived in Tubbataha before noon Tuesday to assess the damage and possible refloating of the grounded Chinese fishing vessel and bring it to a safer ground.

The vessel ran aground shortly before midnight Monday. Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo said their immediate plan is to have divers check the extent of the grounding and see if the Chinese vessel can be refloated and towed to Puerto Princesa City, also in Palawan.

"BRP Romblon arrived in the area at 10:55 a.m. Coast Guard divers may inspect the extent of the grounding," he said.

He said the PCG will try to refloat the vessel and then bring it to Puerto Princesa City where the vessel's 12 Chinese crew members can give their statements to Chinese interpreters.

The stricken Chinese ship is 20 meters long, and steel-hulled. "The instruction of Coast Guard commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena is to escort the Chinese vessel to Puerto Princesa City if we can refloat it. At Puerto Princesa City there may be interpreters for the Chinese fishermen," he said.

He added the fishermen can be detained in Puerto Princesa City if found to have violated maritime regulations at the protected marine sanctuary.