Chinese fishing boat still stuck on reef; crew taken to Palawan

The Chinese fishing boat Min Long Yu is still grounded on the north atoll of the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea but its 12 crew members have been transferred by a Philippine Coast Guard ship to Puerto Princesa in Palawan, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.

Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, the Coast Guard spokesperson, said the 48-meter boat remained stuck on the same spot where it ran aground on Monday night and was “being closely guarded by PCG and Navy personnel, as well as Tubbataha Marine Park rangers.”

In a text message to the Inquirer, Balilo said the Coast Guard’s search-and-rescue ship BRP Romblon arrived at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday in Puerto Princesa with the 12 Chinese nationals found aboard the grounded vessel.

After initial questioning, the Chinese were to be turned over to the Palawan office of the National Committee on Illegal Entrants, he said, referring to the boat’s crew as “suspected poachers and illegal migrants.”

Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena, the PCG commandant, said the Coast Guard would help refloat the stranded vessel, said to be based in Fujian, China. The Chinese boat ran aground at 11:40 p.m. on Monday about 1.1 nautical miles east of the marine park’s ranger station.

The Tubbataha Reef Management Office has yet to determine the damage caused by the vessel to the coral reefs. The US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian, which got stock on another Tubbataha atoll on January 17, was removed on March 30 after being dismantled piece by piece.