The US Navy has decided that the best course of action is to break up the minesweeper USS Guardian after it ran solidly aground on a coral reef in the Sulu Sea:
“We’re working very closely with the Philippine coast guard, with their navy and their government personnel. We’ve been grateful for their support as we all work together to remove Guardian and minimize further damage to the reef,” James said.
It’s expected to take over a month to dismantle the Guardian, which ran aground before dawn on Jan. 17.
Crews have already removed 15,000 gallons of fuel from the ship. They’ve also taken off hundreds of gallons of lubricating oil and paint. They’ll be removing human wastewater and other materials that could harm the environment, James said.
The U.S. Navy is hiring floating cranes to help with the removal. A contractor in Singapore is sending the cranes, which should arrive on site in a few days.
The Navy originally said the Guardian would be lifted by crane onto a barge and taken to a shipyard. But now the Navy says the ship is “beyond economical repair.”
No one was injured when the ship ran aground at the reef in the Tubbataha National Marine Park. The park is a World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea, about 400 miles southwest of Manila.
Update, 8 February: A bit more information about the salvage operations which are supposed to have started on February 4th.
I posted an item last month about the stand-off between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the Philippine ship BRP Gregorio del Pilar (a former USCG cutter) in the Scarborough Shoal. Now there’s a report from Hong Kong’s largest English-language newspaper that China is sending another flotilla to the area:
China has sent five warships to the disputed Scarborough Shoal off the west coast of the Philippines with the warning that Beijing is ready for “any escalation” of the conflict.
That comes as the outgunned Philippines looks to the United States for naval support in South China Sea territory that may be rich in energy sources.
The five warships are said to be among the most advanced vessels in the Chinese fleet.
They include ships with state-of-the- art systems against attack from the sky, while one is an assault ship that carries 20 amphibious tanks and specialized fighting teams among 800 personnel.
Japanese surveillance aircraft saw the flotilla west of Okinawa and sailing south on Sunday.
Without American support, the Philippine navy is completely out-classed by the PLAN (aside from a large number of in-shore patrol craft, there are only 14 combat-capable ships). And it’s not clear that the US will want to escalate tension at this moment, especially over something like the Scarborough Shoal.
China’s view of its borders in the South China Sea clashes wildly with those of its neighbours and the international community:
In a statement, the Philippines said that its navy boarded the Chinese fishing vessels on Tuesday and found a large amount of illegally-caught fish and coral.
Two Chinese surveillance ships then apparently arrived in the area, placing themselves between the warship and the fishing vessels, preventing the navy from making arrests.
The Philippines summoned Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing on Wednesday to lodge a protest over the incident. However, China maintained it had sovereign rights over the area and asked that the Philippine warship leave the waters.
Strategy Page, on the Philippines’ financial and strategic problems:
The Philippines is asking the U.S. for some used F-16 jet fighters. The Philippines is broke, so the proposed deal is for free F-16s, with the Philippines paying for any upgrades or modifications needed for service in the Philippines Air Force. Normally, the Philippines has no practical need for a jet fighter force. But this has changed because of possible clashes with China, the Filipinos are being practical. China is claiming Filipino territorial waters, including places where the Philippines authorized drilling for oil and gas. The Philippines could never afford to buy, or even just maintain warplanes sufficient to deal with a Chinese air threat. The Philippines depends on its friendship with the United States for protection. American warplanes provide better protection than any jet fighters the Philippines could put in the air. But the Philippines would like a dozen or so F-16s just so they can chase away Chinese warplanes that increasingly fly into Filipino air space.
Six years ago, the Philippines removed from service its eight F-5 fighters. These 1960s era aircraft were not much of a match for more recent warplanes, and were expensive to maintain. In the meantime, the Philippines has been using armed trainer aircraft for strikes against Moslem and communist rebels.
I’m not a karaoke fan, but even I think that this is a bit of over-reaction to bad singing:
The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling “My Way” in karaoke bars over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled. But the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the “My Way Killings.”
The killings have produced urban legends about the song and left Filipinos groping for answers. Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?
Whatever the reason, many karaoke bars have removed the song from their playbooks. And the country’s many Sinatra lovers, like Mr. Gregorio here in this city in the southernmost Philippines, are practicing self-censorship out of perceived self-preservation.
Karaoke-related killings are not limited to the Philippines. In the past two years alone, a Malaysian man was fatally stabbed for hogging the microphone at a bar and a Thai man killed eight of his neighbors in a rage after they sang John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Karaoke-related assaults have also occurred in the United States, including at a Seattle bar where a woman punched a man for singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” after criticizing his version.