CEBU CITY—The sunken ship MV St. Thomas Aquinas should be salvaged to prevent further damage on marine life in the area where it sank, according to environment officials.
Edmondo Arregadas, chief of the Marine and Coastal Management Division of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Visayas, said the strong underwater current might move the vessel and damage nearby marine life.
The sunken ship is near two protected coral reefs in Talisay City, Cebu, said Eddie Llamedo, DENR information officer.
The nearest protected area, he said, is the eight-hectare Pongaton Reef in Barangay (village) Tangke in Talisay, which is about 2 kilometers away from the sunken vessel.
The 16-hectare Lagundi Reef in Barangay Dumlog, Talisay, is less than 5 km from the vessel.
Ensign Cecille Romero, assistant station commander of the Philippine Coast Guard Cebu, said the volume of traffic in the area has to be considered in the salvaging of the vessel.
She said it would take about a year to salvage St. Thomas Aquinas.
Authorities would have to take into consideration its effect on traffic at sea before the vessel is salvaged especially since the Lawis Ledge is a narrow passage way for vessels, she added.
If the salvaging would have to be done, Romero said sea traffic must be properly planned since only one ship will be allowed to pass at a time.
Thomas Aquinas, of 2Go group, was rammed by Sulpicio Express Siete of the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. in the vicinity of Lawis Ledge in Talisay City, Cebu, on Aug. 16, killing more than 100 persons.
The vessel, which was also carrying 20 tons of diesel and 120 tons of bunker fuel, sank 30 meters into the sea.
Fuel has leaked from the vessel, damaging around 328 hectares of mangrove areas in Cordova town and Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island.
Romero said the siphoning off of oil from Thomas Aquinas is one of the priorities of the Coast Guard and the management of 2Go. The retrieval of bodies from the sunken vessel continues.
Equipment to siphoning off oil from Thomas Aquinas is expected to arrive from Japan today, Sept. 6, according to Romero.
As of last week, three holes on the ship where the oil leaked were plugged, resulting in a 90-percent drop in the rate of the oil leak, she added.
However, Romero said she doesn’t know how much oil had already leaked.