Jan. 29 - The U.S. and Philippines prepare to free the USS Guardian from a protected marine area; activists want to punish the U.S. for the reef damage. Lindsey Parietti reports.
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The USS Guardian naval ship ran aground in a protected marine area in the Phillippine's Sulu Sea on January 17 angering environmental groups.
Bad weather previously prevented efforts to free the ship - but a salvage team is now preparing to use cranes to lift it from the reef.
The team has already removed 15,000 gallons of fuel to prevent spillage and lighten the vessel.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet has apologised for the accident and the damage caused to Tubbataha Reef, but activists want to make an example of them.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) WORLD WILDLIFE FUND COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER GREGG YAN SAYING:
"This sets a precedent for all other incursions into, not just our waters but our marine parks. Now, if these guys get away, sail off into the sunset, without nothing, without so much as a slap on the hand for what they did, then what's to stop any other U.S. ship, any other Chinese ship, any other poaching boat, from going into Tubbataha or Apo Reef, or any of our other parks and doing what they want?"
Tubbataha Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site treasured for its rich biodiversity.
Water tests have not shown any toxic contamination thus far.
Based on an environmental protection act, the U.S. could be held liable for the equivalent of nearly $1 million U.S. dollars for reef damage.
An American naval official said they were investigating whether faulty data and navigational maps may have caused the ship to run aground.
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