Coast Guard team heads for Japan for next stage of USS Guardian grounding probe

A five-member high-level Philippine Coast Guard team is heading for Japan Wednesday to take part in the next stage of an investigation into the grounding of the minesweeper USS Guardian at Tubbataha Reef last January.

The Coast Guard Marine Casualty team will go to the United States' naval base in Japan to meet with their counterparts from the US Navy, radio dzBB's Carlo Mateo reported.

Leading the team are Coast Guard deputy commandant and marine casualty team chairman Rear Admiral Luis Tuason Jr. and Palawan commander and team vice chairman Commodore Enrico Evangelista.

Coast Guard commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said the five-member team is to exchange information with the US Navy and may return as early as Friday.

It will then have 10 days to prepare and submit a report to Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, who in turn will submit it to President Benigno Aquino III.

The USS Guardian ran aground at Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17.

An investigation showed it damaged 2,345.67 square meters of the reef.

Salvage teams managed to cut and remove the ship from the reef only last March 30.

But mere days after the USS Guardian was removed from the area, a Chinese fishing vessel with 12 Chinese aboard ran aground at the reef last April 8.

—KG, GMA News