PCG asked to hold ship that rammed Kiamba reef; P42-M compensation sought

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/10 June) — The Sarangani provincial government has formally asked the Philippine Coast Guard to hold MV Double Prosperity until it can pay for the damage it caused on a reef in a marine protected area in Kiamba town, which an official placed Friday at more than P42 million.

Arnel Zapatos, Sarangani chief legal officer, said that marine experts they requested to conduct a study recommended the amount, which is the same as that asked by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as initial damage cost.

But he told MIndaNews on the phone that the provincial government and the ship’s owner have yet to agree on the exact amount.

It’s now over a month since the bulk cargo carrier run aground in Bacud Reef, which is home to 145 species belonging to 29 families of reef fishes, including the endangered Mameng or Napoleon wrasse Cheilinus undulates.

Zapatos lodged the petition of Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene A. Dominguez before the Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI), which convened early this week in Davao City, to hold the vessel until a payment or settlement is reached.

“SBMI should impose sanctions on the vessel and to continue to hold custody of the vessel withholding certifications of her seaworthiness pending the non-settlement of claim[s] for the damaged reef,” Dominguez said in report released by the provincial information office.

In the same report, Zapatos disclosed that during the SBMI inquiry, the crew of MV Double Prosperity admitted that the captain permitted the ship to go near the shore despite the knowledge that Bacud Reef exists in their navigational map, in order to get cell phone signals.

“The Third Mate admitted that he was the one maneuvering the ship when it went aground and he miscalculated her turn, causing the vessel to hit the reef. They were running at 13 knots when it hit the reef in a complete stop. He was aware that they were allowed to go nearer the shore at five miles,” the lawyer said.

With the admissions, the Protected Area Management Board of Sarangani submitted its “Complaint in Intervention” on the grounds of negligence, damage to the reef in a protected area, and anchored on the PCG’s duty to hold the ship until an acceptable settlement is paid or reached.

Zapatos said that on June 6, they have demanded a security bond from the owners of the ship, Yano Kaiun Co. Ltd. of Japan, in order to ensure that there is that corresponding amount ready to pay them or settle their claims, but there had been no response as of Friday.

He also criticized the slow progress in pulling out from the reef the vessel, which is twice the length of a football field.

Their next date of attempt to refloat the ship is on June 15, which is also the deadline for the issuance of the security bond, Zapatos said.

There have been futile three attempts to refloat MV Double Prosperity since it got stuck on May 8. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)