Captain admits human error in Sarangani reef accident

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/7 June) – The provincial government of Sarangani’s multimillion damage claims over the grounding of a foreign cargo vessel at a portion of a critical reef along the Sarangani Bay has received a major boost following the official admission by the ship’s captain that human error has indeed triggered the May 8 incident.

Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez told reporters late Monday that M/V Double Prosperity’s Filipino skipper, Danilo Sta. Ana, admitted before the Philippine Coast Guard’s Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) in Davao City that the vessel accidentally ran into the Bacud reef following their miscalculation of its position.

“There was an admission from the ship’s captain that they tried to move closer to the mainland that time to establish stable cellphone signals,” the governor said.

Dominguez said the initial admission has firmed their bid to seek damage claims with the owners of the Panama-registered vessel, which remained stuck at the Bacud reef located 2.5 miles off the coast of Kiamba town in Sarangani as of Tuesday.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier pegged the damage to the reef at P42 million.

The vessel, which is carrying 65,900 metric tons of coal, originated from Australia and was en route to India when it ran into reef before noon last May 8.

M/V Double Prosperity is owned by Tanagra Shipping, S.A. The reef, which is about 2.5 miles from the shores of Kiamba town, is part of Sarangani Bay’s protected marine sanctuaries based on Presidential Proclamation 756.

During the opening of the BMI investigation in Davao City on Monday, Dominguez said the local government presented evidences regarding the cause of the mishap and the extent of the damage wrought by the vessel on the reef.

The local government assigned its legal officer, Atty. Arnel Zapatos, to represent the province and assist several witnesses from the area that are slated to testify before the BMI.

The Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of Sarangani province earlier sought for the convening of the BMI to determine the “real cause” of the grounding of M/V Double Prosperity.

Dominguez earlier e said they want the special probe body to specifically to look into speculations that the predominantly-Filipino crew members of the ill-fated ship were supposedly watching the fight of world boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao and American brawler Shane Mosley when it rummaged the reef.

Citing results of the PCG’s investigation, the governor cited that the stranded vessel was reportedly cruising around five miles off its preset way points when the incident happened.

“The truth will eventually come out and we will make everyone behind it liable for the damages it caused on the reef,” Dominguez said.

Meantime, the governor said the local government has filed a motion before the BMI to transfer its ongoing probe in this city or at the Sarangani provincial capitol in Alabel town.

He said they mainly sought for the transfer of the BMI probe since most of the witnesses and other involved parties were coming from the province.

“I think it would be safer for our team if the investigation is held here instead. We’re hoping that the BMI will consider our motion regarding this matter,” Dominguez added. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)