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In a photo released by the U.S. Navy, the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian sits aground in this Jan. 22, 2013 file photo on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea in the Philippines. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The dismantling of the USS Guardian stuck on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea is about 50 percent complete, the Philippine Coast Guard said Wednesday.

In a report to the PCG headquarters in Manila, Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, head of Task Force Tubbataha and commander of the Coast Guard’s Palawan district, said on Tuesday the US Navy-contracted salvage team had dismantled about 50 percent of the grounded minesweeper.

The salvage team is “expecting calm weather in the next three to four days so work will continue on the USS Guardian,” he added.

Aside from the PCG, the task force includes the Philippine Navy, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Tubbataha Reef Foundation and local government units in the island-province of Palawan.

Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, the PCG’s spokesman, said on Wednesday that “with wind speeds of 10 to 15 knots and waves of less than one meter, weather conditions in the reef area have been very favorable to continue the salvage operation.”

“Today, the salvage team will continue removing the pipelines in the engine room of the Guardian. The team is also scheduled to remove the remaining main engine and two auxiliary engines, as well as the turbine generator,” he told the Inquirer.

On Tuesday, the team “made a cut on the main deck for the removal of the machines and continued the clearing of debris and other loose items.”

The 68-meter USS Guardian ran aground on the reef on Jan. 17. Salvage work began on February 22 but was suspended at least four times due to bad weather.

Last week, the salvage team successfully lifted the minesweeper’s aft section and transferred it to the crane ship Jascon 25, the lead vessel tasked with dismantling the USS Guardian.

The lifting of the vessel’s bridge deck and transfer to the barge Seabridge also went as planned.

Earlier, Balilo told the Inquirer that the salvage team planned to “work even at night to make up for the lost time.”

Seven other ships, including the PCG search-and-rescue vessel BRP Romblon, are in the vicinity. The other ships are the US Navy combat logistics vessel Wally Schirra, USS Salvor, the crane ship SMIT Borneo, the tugs Archon Tide and Intrepid, and the Malaysian salvage ship Trabajador 1.

The 35-meter Romblon (SAR 3503), commissioned in 2003, is tasked by the Coast Guard to closely monitor the salvage operation.

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Tags: Conservation , Environment , Features , marine sanctuary , Tubbataha , US Navy

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