Chinese vessel runs aground Tubbataha

A Chinese fishing vessel ran aground the Tubbataha Reef late Monday, officials said, only days after the wreckage of a U.S. ship that hit the protected marine park had been removed.

The vessel, which carried 12 people believed to be illegal fishermen, hit the reef before midnight, staff at the Tubbataha Management Office said via phone.

Related story: Philippines asking $1.4 mn from US for reef damage

Philippine Coast Guard Spokesperson Commander Armand Balilio, in a separate phone interview, said the vessel hit Tubbataha at around 1.1 nautical miles from the park ranger station.

The vessel remains in its grounding position as of press time, he added.

"If it can be moved from its grounding position come high tide, it will be escorted by BRP Romblon to Puerto Princesa," Balilio said.

He added that the passengers suspected to be poachers will be investigated for illegal entry.

Also read: U.S. backs PH arbitration with China

The incident comes only about three months after United States minesweeper USS Guardian hit Tubbataha, damaging at least 2,345 square meters of the reef.

Salvage teams had to cut the warship into pieces so it could be removed without further damaging the UNESCO-protected site. The last parts have been lifted only on March 29.

The U.S. Navy has meanwhile relieved the warship's commander and three others for alleged failure to adhere to standard navigation procedures.

The Philippines is asking the U.S. to pay $1.4 million (P58 million) in compensation for the damage its warship caused on Tubbataha.

Related slideshow: The U.S. vessel Tubbataha damage

A Philippine coast guard wades towards the USS Guardian trapped on the Tubbataha coral reef, January 22, 2013 off the western island of Palawan after it ran aground on January 17
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AFP News
Wed, Feb 27, 2013 12:57 PM PHT

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