DENR wants to penalize cargo ship with more than actual damage to reef

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 May) – The provincial government of Sarangani has yet to fix the total amount of damage it would demand from the foreign cargo ship that rammed into a protected reef, although the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has already pegged the initial damage cost at P42 million, excluding the lost marine life that could ultimately benefit the future generations of Sarangani residents.

Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez said on Wednesday that assessment to the damage caused by the Panama-registered M/V Double Prosperity to Bakud Reef in Kiamba town is still ongoing.

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje earlier placed the damage caused by the vessel, which was carrying around 66,000 tons of coal, to the reef at P42 million.

But he stressed that the figure does not yet include the worth of marine services that have been lost due to the accident.

“We estimate that the damaged cost in Bakud Reef could run up to PhP42 million. 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,” Paje said in a statement.

He pushed for the inclusion in the computation of the total penalty to be imposed on the erring ship the lost value of marine services that would remain non-existent for at least 20 years, the minimum period needed before it can regain its former condition.

He noted that P42 million is too small a compensation, as it does not take into consideration the lost marine life that could have spawned in the rich marine area that could ultimately benefit even millions of Sarangani residents especially for the region’s fisherfolk and its allied enterprise dependent on the region’s teeming fishing industry.

Dominguez said that the Singaporean group that handles shipwrecks representing the owners of the stranded vessel will arrive this weekend to survey the extent of damage.

M/V Double Prosperity is owned by Tanagra Shipping, S.A.

Dominguez revealed the expert from the University of the Philippines School of Marine Sciences they earlier requested has already surveyed the reef but will have to return once the boat is removed.

Roy Echeverria, Philippine Coast Guard Southeastern Mindanao acting deputy commander, said Tuesday last week that M/V Double Prosperity could be pulled out not later than May 20 from the reef. He said then that May 19 was the highest tide of the month, which could be helpful in refloating the vessel on top of the transfer of its coal cargo to two barges.

He could not, however, be reached for comment now that the ideal time is past.

Dominguez said the PCG is eyeing another two weeks to remove the ill-fated vessel from Bakud Reef, which is about seven kilometers from the shore.

The 225-meter Panama-registered cargo tanker was heading for India from Australia when it plowed last May 8 a portion of Bakud Reef, which is within the 215,950-hectare Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape, a declared protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 756.

In an earlier investigation report, the PCG cited three possible causes: the officer failed to properly maneuver, the master failed to provide navigational watch due to alcohol impairment, and the ship was on auto pilot and not one was manning the wheel. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)