MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine navy frigate has run aground on a shoal in the disputed South China Sea and efforts are underway to retrieve it and its crew, who were unhurt.
Military spokesman Col. Noel Detoyato said the BRP Gregorio del Pilar ran aground Wednesday night in the vicinity of the shoal, which the Philippines calls Hasa Hasa.
U.S. and Philippine forces on Monday began their largest annual military exercises since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power and vowed to scale down America’s military presence in the country as he sought closer ties with China and Russia.
The barren shoal is known internationally as Half Moon Shoal and lies on the eastern edge of the hotly contested Spratly archipelago in the disputed sea.
Detoyato said late Thursday that Philippine ships "have already been mobilized to conduct assessment, retrieve the aground vessel and return her to safe harbor and assist all personnel aboard BRP del Pilar."
The frigate is one of three former U.S. Coast Guard cutters which were acquired by the Philippine military from the United States and now are the Philippines' largest warships.
A military report seen by The Associated Press said the propellers of the frigate, which has more than 100 crewmembers, were damaged by the grounding. The crew checked the frigate after it ran aground and found it was not taking in water.