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Chinese vessel aground on heritage site

Trawler accused of 'ransacking' marine life reporter, Manila

April 9, 2013

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A Chinese fishing vessel has run aground on the Tubbataha Reef, barely three months after a US Navy minesweeper became stuck on the same World Heritage site, Philippines officials say.

The Chinese vessel, with at least 12 crewmen on board, ran aground yesterday night some 1.1 nautical miles east of the Tubbataha Ranger station, said the Coast Guard whose search-and-rescue vessel had arrived in the area earlier today.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo said the immediate plan was to see if the 20-meter long Chinese vessel can be refloated and towed to Puerto Princesa City.

The grounding at Tubbataha Reef comes just three months after the US minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground in the area on January 17.

Lawmakers were quick to accuse China of encouraging Chinese vessels to encroach in Phillipine waters.  

Congressman Walden Bello of the Akbayan Party said the Chinese vessel was engaged in "state-led" poaching activities in the protected area off the central Philippine province of Palawan.

"The act is a blatant breach and disregard of our sovereignty, and the outright ransacking of our marine life," Bello said.

He urged the government to act swiftly to ensure that other Chinese vessels do not trespass in other parts of the country’s territorial waters.

"Our previous experience with the grounding of the USS Guardian in Tubbataha and this current incident with the Chinese fishing vessel should serve as an impetus for the government to make the waters within our archipelago more secure,” Bello said.

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