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Philippines to OK minesweeper salvage plan

Jan. 30, 2013 at 1:59 PM

MANILA, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Philippine officials say they have asked the United States to submit a plan to salvage a grounded minesweeper before beginning any work to free the vessel.

Defense officials want to approve the salvage plan to ensure it won't cause any further ecological damage to the protected reef on which the ship is stuck, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Wednesday.

The USS Guardian has been grounded on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea since Jan. 17. The reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

U.S. Coast Guard commander Efren Evangelista said additional studies are being done to update damage to the reef. An early estimate said 10,763 square feet of coral had been damaged.

Some military officials said a U.S. Navy plan to lift the Guardian onto a barge and take it to a shipyard for repairs was "difficult and could be dangerous."

An earlier plan to tow the naval vessel into deeper waters was dropped after the Guardian developed severe hull damage and began to take on water.

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