2,000 sq m of coral reef destroyed
LEGAZPI CITY—Port and city authorities are preventing the departure of a Vietnamese cargo vessel that ran aground at the Albay Gulf on Monday and damaged about 2,000 square meters of coral reef within the city’s waters.
Benigno Redito, chief of the Integrated Resource Coastal Management (IRCM) unit of the city government, said the vessel, which has a crew of 21 Vietnamese, was ordered to stay put after the destruction of the coral reef along the Pulang Buya, or Demson Reef, was discovered.
The vessel, MV Ocean 3 owned by Hoang Anh Shipping, had just departed from the Legazpi City port after unloading sacks of imported rice from Vietnam when the ship’s hull plowed through the coral reef in Pulang Buya, some 5 nautical miles (9.26 kilometers) from the port, around 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on June 15.
Redito said the city government would demand payment for the damage caused by the ship on the coral reef and would push for the seizure of the Vietnamese vessel.
PO1 Maximo Paraiso, port state control division head of the Philippine Coast Guard in Legazpi, said MV Ocean 3 would not be allowed to sail unless the Vietnamese ship could present a certificate of seaworthiness and after its owner has paid for the damage that the vessel caused.
The damage to the reef was initially estimated to be around P1 million, said Rhoneil Estevez, the chief operation officer of the fishery enforcement team of IRCM-Legazpi.
According to Redito, a sea mapping operation that city authorities conducted on Wednesday showed that the 2,000-sq m area damaged by the vessel was within the 4-hectare Demson Reef, a marine protected area being managed by IRCM.
“With the destruction of coral reef, our problem is the long-term recovery of the damaged site. It will take several years to do the rehabilitation,” said Redito.
Redito said authorities would need to consult marine experts to find out if it would be possible to rehabilitate the damaged area.
Redito said he believed that the accident was caused by human error, particularly since it happened during daytime. “If there was a lookout crew, it might not have happened as the reef is very visible during low tide,” he said.
He also said if rehabilitation of the reef would proceed, it would become necessary to ban fishing in the area, affecting the livelihood of small-scale fishers from Legazpi’s coastal communities.
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