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China ship conks out near Tubbataha Reef

The Coast Guard has dispatched its search-and- rescue ship to help the crew members of a Chinese vessel whose engine quit southwest of the Tubbataha Reef, an official said Tuesday. The BRP Pampanga was deployed to help the crew of the M/V Tan An Ha, a cargo vessel owned by Tan Ai Shipping based in Fujian, China, said Enrico Efren Evangelista, the Coast Guard’s commander in Palawan. He said his office had received an urgent call from the officials of the New Filipino Agencies Marine Inc. telling them that the vessel went in distress after its main engine quit while sailing southwest of the Sulu Sea around 4 p.m. on Monday. The vessel came from Singapore and was on its way to the Tagbilaran Port in Bohol to deliver 5,900 tons of limestone when the incident happened, Evangelista said. Coast Guard officials said rough seas were  hammering the vessel, and that its captain was worried it might run aground. Evangelista on Tuesday also said that the  operation of Jascon-25 to remove the minesweeper USS Guardian of the United States Navy from the Tubbataha Reef was again stalled because of the big waves buffeting the area. “The sea condition is very unsafe,” Evangelista said. “We always give paramount consideration to the safety of our salvor team and also to prevent further damage to the reef.” The Guardian ran aground on Jan. 17 and damaged 4,000 square meters of reef after its captain and crew ignored several warnings not to enter the highly prohibited maritime area, which is a Unesco as World Heritage Site. The US Navy immediately whisked its sailors to Saebo, Japan, to avoid arrest and legal responsibility for violating Philippine maritime laws. The US government has pledged to pay for the damage to the reef.  With Florante S. Solmerin                                                                                --
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