MAC has confirmed that, contrary to a number of press reports, no attempt to warn the USS Guardian that she was in restricted waters or that she was about to ground were issued by Philippine authorities.
The vessel grounded on Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage site and national park, at 0225 on 16 January 2013. According to a US Navy report the vessel’s ENC showed the reef displaced by some 8 miles from its true position.
An official statement by the Tubataha Reef Office, TMO, which is responsible for the area says that the park rangers only became aware of the vessel at 0400, some 90 minutes after the grounding.
A source in the TMO confirmed the statement in an email to MAC: “Marine park rangers attempted to contact them after they were found aground. USS Guardian personnel refused to respond to them until they were within sight.”
A buffer zone of 10 miles surrounds the bound of the reef. The NGA chart for the area does not show the reef as a restricted area although navigation through the area is prohibited without permission from the TMO, as required under the Philippines Republic Act 10067.
As a US military vessel the incident falls with the Visiting Forces Agreement between the United States and the Philippines.
Previous grounding on the reef include the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior, at least one Philippine Navy vessel and a Philippine Coastguard vessel.
There are conflicting reports regarding the status of the lighthouse on the reef.