Workers in the southwestern Philippines have removed the last major part of a US Navy minesweeper from a protected coral reef where it ran aground in January, and the damage will be assessed to determine the fine Washington will pay. A crane lifted the 250-ton stern of the dismantled USS Guardian yesterday from the reef, which is designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The doomed ship's parts will be transported to a Navy facility in Sasebo, Japan, to determine which ones can be reused and which will be junked.
American and Filipino experts this week will begin a final assessment of the reef damage, to be paid for by Washington. Tubbataha park superintendent Angelique Songco said the fine could be more than $2 million. The fine will go to a fund for the upkeep of the reef, and Filipino and US scientists will inspect the reef this week to determine the best way to "rehabilitate" the damaged parts. The Guardian was en route to Indonesia after a stop in Subic Bay, a former American naval base west of Manila, when it ran aground before dawn Jan. 17. It strayed more than 3 miles into an offshore area off-limits to navigation before hitting the reef. (Read more Philippines stories.)