Authorities retrieve grounded PH Navy ship

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4) — The Philippine Navy warship that ran aground in the West Philippine Sea has been retrieved, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Tuesday.

BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a Hamilton-class cutter which the Navy acquired from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2011, "was successfully pulled out" shortly before midnight on Monday, the AFP said. The retrieval operations lasted for almost 10 hours.

AFP public affairs chief Col. Noel Detoyato earlier said there was "minimal damage" to the Philippine Navy's flagship, which was stranded last August 29 near Hasa-Hasa or Half Moon Shoal some 100 kilometers off Palawan. He said the hull and right propeller were slightly damaged, but all 117 crew members, including 15 officers, were safe and unharmed.

"Inspection was ongoing as at this time in preparation for the towing of the vessel to Subic," the AFP said.

Reports say China sent vessels to assist with the retrieval operations, something the AFP denied. "We did not ask for help from anybody... We can on our own, we can resolve this one," Detoyato earlier said.

The Hasa-Hasa Shoal lies within the West Philippine Sea — the smaller area of the South China Sea off the Philippines' western seaboard and within the country's  200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).  The shoal is on the edge of the disputed Spratly archipelago, where China has raised tensions by transforming disputed reefs into islands.

The Philippines largely won a case against China before an international arbitral tribunal, whose ruling in 2012 invalidated Beijing's sweeping territorial claims in South China Sea. China has refused to acknowledge the landmark ruling and continues to claim the South China Sea in its entirety.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said the country cannot afford to go to war against China, but he promised to bring up the arbitral ruling with the East Asian giant during his term.