Attempt to sneak out vessel in Sarangani reef accident hit

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 July) – The provincial government of Sarangani has slammed alleged efforts to bring the cargo vessel that rammed into a reef in Kiamba town out of the country as it sought the help of the Philippine Coast Guard to intervene on the matter.

M/V Double Prosperity, which ploughed Bacud Reef on May 8, has been docked in Bunawan, Davao City after it was pulled out of the accident site more than a month later.

The damage to the reef was found out to be much larger following refloating operations by the Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation. Experts earlier estimated damage to 2,000 sq.m. of the reef, but later found out to be 8,000 sq.m.

Before the larger damage to the reef was uncovered, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has pegged the amount of compensation to be at least P42 million.

Bacud is an offshore reef situated 7 kilometers from the shore and covers an area of approximately 141,466 square meters. The area falls under the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) through Presidential Proclamation 756 promulgated in 1996 encompassing the municipal waters of Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum with a total area of 2,150

Arnel Zapatos, Sarangani chief legal officer, claimed the salvage company made “collateral demands” before the Philippine Coast Guard for the transfer of the vessel from Bunawan, Davao City to Malalag, Davao del Sur, “citing as a reason that it is not possible for them to repair the vessel in Bunawan.”

Zapatos said they filed a letter-protest against Malayan for supposedly scheming the escape of the Panama-based vessel even before the PCG’s Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI) could rule on the damage claims earlier filed by the local government and the province’s Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).

“We found out that the real reason why the salvor wanted to transfer the vessel to Malalag is for it to repair the vessel immediately,” Zapatos said in a statement, noting that it will then leave Philippine jurisdiction.

Malayan Towage could not be immediately contacted for their side.

Zapatos blamed the larger damage on the corals to the towage company.

Because instead of merely pulling the vessel out, they moved the boat in all directions until they dragged it to the deeper portion of the reef, which caused more damage to the area of the reef, he said.

The PAMB and the parties have yet to make a final amicable settlement.

The lawyer said the SBMI has yet to finish its recommendation – “whether or not the vessel is factually guilty of negligence? And whether or not in the exercise of environment protection, the PCG can hold the vessel until it renders payment.” (Bong S. Sarmiento and Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)