PCG deploys additional teams to help remove grounded Chinese fishing vessel in Tubbataha

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Thursday announced the deployment of additional teams to Tubbataha Reef to help remove a Chinese fishing vessel grounded since Monday night and to prevent any oil spill in the marine sanctuary.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo said the teams included divers from the special operations group and environmental protection unit personnel looking out for oil spills.

He added that PCG teams will help out in efforts to remove the Chinese fishing vessel, initially by lightening its load.

The Coast Guard aims to remove at least 8,000 liters of fuel as well as fishing nets and water from the ship's cargo hold so it can retract from the reef on its own.

"Once the ship lightens, she may be able to retract from the reef on her own," Coast Guard commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said.

He said the fishing vessel's engine did not appear to sustain any damage.

The Chinese vessel with 12 fishermen aboard ran aground at Tubbataha Reef before midnight Monday.

Monday's incident occurred three months after the American minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground in Tubbataha Reef. The USS Guardian was removed from the area only last March 30.

On Wednesday, the 12 fishermen were charged before the provincial prosecutor's office with poaching. Added charges are to be filed against them on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Tubbataha Management Office sought the help of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) in removing the Chinese fishing vessel.

Their report also said the Philippine government will coordinate with the Chinese government in looking for the owner of the ship to possibly shoulder the expenses for salvage operations.