LAPU-LAPU CITY—A group of divers on Wednesday found damage on corals in the waters off this city, which was believed to have been caused by an underwater tour operator that had been ordered to cease operations.
Andy Berame, Coastal Law Enforce chair and head of the city’s Task Force Kalikasan who checked the site with seven other divers, said a portion of the coral wall had chipped off while damage was found on several other corals.
Although he would not categorically say that the submarine being operated by the underwater tour firm was responsible for the damage, Berame said it was caused by a “rigid object.”
“The damage is new,” he said.
Officials of the Cebu Yellow Submarine and Undersea Tour Group, which had been issued a cease and desist order by the city government, on Tuesday said its submarine did not come into contact with coral reefs.
In a 1-minute video posted by Satoshi Tomoda on Youtube, the submarine appeared to have hit a coral reef wall.
Agnes Escano, Cebu Yellow Submarine spokesperson, said it was “impossible” for the submarine to hit the corals because the vessel always keeps a six-meter distance from any part of the coral reef.
“There was no crash,” said Escano. “It’s common sense, no damage was done,” she said.
“There is a portion of the coral wall that chipped off. We cannot say that it was caused by the submarine but it was bumped by a rigid object, which resulted in the damage of other corals,” said diver Berame.
Toyoda, 51 and also a diver, said the submarine “hit the coral wall while its propeller damaged the corals.”
“The front (of the submarine) hit the wall first then the tail, a little bit,” said Toyoda, who took the video.
Vince Cinches, country oceans campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, continued to call for an investigation.
Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza, in a text message, said the submarine operator has to prove it did not cause any damage.
In the cease and desist order that she issued against Cebu Yellow Submarine, Radaza said the company’s business permit has also been suspended.
Isabelo Montejo, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional executive director, said the department would form a team to investigate, too. With a report by Irene Sino Cruz, Inquirer Visayas