ArchivesJune 2010Vessel plows through protected marine reserve; destroys coral reefs

Vessel plows through protected marine reserve; destroys coral reefs


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About 100 square meters of coral formations in the primary tourist dive destination town of Dauin in Negros Oriental have been severely damaged after a cargo vessel in distress plowed right through the protected marine reserve in Maayong Tubig of that town last Thursday. {{more}}

Dauin Mayor Rodrigo Alanano said on Tuesday that the extent of the damage could not be ascertained yet pending further investigation but he vowed to file a complaint against Capt. Gaudencio Morales, Jr., ship master of the M/V Lorcon Davao, and the Lorenzo Shipping Lines, which owns the vessel.

An incident report at the Philippine Coast Guard in Dumaguete quoted Morales as saying that the cargo vessel was en route to the DUCOMI port in Bacong, a town adjacent to Dauin, when sudden strong gust winds and heavy rains resulted in zero visibility.

The cargo ship was about 50 meters from the shoreline of Maayong Tubig, where many beach resorts and dive shops are located, and had already slowed down its engine in preparation for docking around 9 p.m., said PO1 Revillo Palarpalar, Chief Master at Arms of the Coast Guard here.

Witnesses said they noticed the ship weaving its way inland, prompting them to grab flashlights and spotlights to signal to the vessel to stop as it was entering the protected fish sanctuary.

Some residents said they feared the vessel would run aground.

Morales claimed that the vessel’s engine was shut down and they had drifted southwest in the direction of Apo Island, however, witnesses said the M/V Lorcon Davao had allegedly remained in the marine sanctuary for about 30 minutes before it departed.

At least 40 floating marker buoys in the protected marine reserve were also damaged.

The Coast Guard report said that Morales also denied that the ship had dropped anchor at the said area, which he did not know was a protected marine sanctuary.

Bigs Eggert, manager of the Atlantis Resort, said that an initial inspection by divers in the area, properly documented with photographs and video clips, said coral formations have been seriously affected.

A table coral of about five square meters was totally uprooted and overturned, she said.

She said the marine reserve in that area is one of the province’s richest fish sanctuaries frequently visited by foreign tourists for diving and snorkeling expeditions.

The Coast Guard granted clearance to the M/V Lorcon Davao, a cargo vessel of about 4,962 gross tonnage to depart the DUCOMI pier around 4 p.m. of Friday.

Palarpalar said the Coast Guard did not have enough grounds to hold the cargo vessel, however, the local government of Dauin had been advised to file a marine protest if warranted.

Eggert said resort owners and dive shop operators in Dauin were worried about the impact of the damaged corals and fish sanctuary in Maayong Tubig, considering that it would take years to rehabilitate the coral reefs. (PNA/Judy Flores and Maricar Aranas)

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