DENR chief says P42-M cost of damage to Bakud Reef too small

DAVAO CITY  (MindaNews/22 May) — The Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources said the estimated cost of damage to Bakud Reef  off Kiamba in Sarangani province after a cargo vessel ran aground on May 8, could run up to P42 million. But Secretary Ramon Paje says this is too small a compensation because the value of the loss of marine services is invaluable.

An estimated four hectares of the protected Bakud coral reef area were damaged when MV Double Prosperity, ran aground.

“We estimate that the damaged cost in Bakud Reef could run up to PhP42 million,” said Paje in a statement posted at the DENR website. “But this amount is like giving a slap on the wrist on the ship’s owners as the value in marine services that was lost as a consequence of the accident is invaluable,” he added.

He said the P42-million “does not take into consideration to the lost marine life that could have spawned that could ultimately have benefited millions of Sarangani residents, especially the region’s fisherfolk and the allied enterprises dependent on the region’s teeming fishing industry.”

A hectare (10,000 square meters) of coral reef has an annual average value of US$130,000 in terms of services to humans, according to research available through the Science Daily website.

The 225-meter Panama-registered cargo tanker, loaded with 65,900 metric tons of coal, was heading for India from Australia when it plowed through a portion of Bakud Reef, which is within the 215,950- hectare Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape (SBPS), a declared protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 756.

Paje wants to make sure that the operators of MV Double Prosperity pay the full amount of fines due for the  damage their ship caused.

“To do any less would make a mockery of the Philippine legal system, particularly our National Integrated Protected Areas Systems Law and the Bakud Reef as a protected area,” he said.

Last week, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of Sarangani province passed a resolution requesting the Philippine Coast Guard to constitute a special Board of Marine Inquiry to determine the “real cause” of the Bakud Reef situation.

M/V Double Prosperity’s Filipino skipper Danilo Sta. Ana had earlier acknowledged that the incident was caused by their “miscalculation” of the vessel’s route.

The PAMB executive committee has authorized the provincial government, through the provincial legal office, to take the lead in the filing of charges against the owners of the cargo vessel.

Dominguez said they have tasked a team led by Sarangani legal officer Atty. Arnel Zapatos to prepare and file all the necessary against the cargo vessel’s owners.

PAMB officials earlier pegged the damage to the reef as a result of the vessel’s grounding at around P30 million. (Rico Biliran/MindaNews)