By Dennis D. Estopace, Reporter
March 24 for March 25, 2013
THE bow section of the grounded USS Guardian (MCM25) may be cut Tuesday, or nearly four days after the expected full removal of the minesweeper from the Tubbataha Reef.
Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista of the Philippine Coast Guard, said that March 26 is also the target day for the first attempt to lift the remaining portions of the minesweeper that has been cut to pieces beginning mid-February.
Evangelista, who heads the PCG Palawan District, was quoted that time as saying they are eyeing March 23 as the complete removal of the USS Guardian.
The 63-meter-long, 1,300-ton ship reported it was grounded within the 97,030-hectare Marine Protected Area on January 17.
Evangelista, head of Tubbataha Task Force, said that Saturday was “not a deadline, but a target date based on the salvage plan.”
“The salvage activity is very dynamic, so we can’t impose a deadline. Otherwise, we could further damage the reef.”
Evangelista added that the priority of careful and orderly removal of vessel follows only if that first priority is met, “which is the preventon of further damage.”
He explained to reporters on Sunday that unfavourable sea conditions has also hobbled efforts to follow the timeline to a “T”.
Evangelista expressed satisfaction over the work of the salvage crew whose members, he added, may even work during the Holy Week break.
He added that the crew, mostly composed of United States Navy personnel, have exhibited care in salvage operations.
They place all debris, even the smallest, in a container van, Evangelista said.
He explained that this care for details also may have prompted the US Navy to push further the timeline to the second week of April.
“Based on the salvage plan, this would include a clean to ensure no debris are left in the affected area.”
Evangelista said that if the cutting of the hull begins Tuesday, he expects this to be finished before the second week of April.
However, he says these dates could be revised based on the progress of the salvage operations.
“But again, this is relative to weather conditions.”