P4M in payment sought for coral reef damage
LEGAZPI CITY—The city government of Legazpi is demanding P4 million in compensation from the owner of the Vietnamese cargo vessel that damaged the coral reef along Pulang Buya, or Denson Reef, when the vessel ran aground at the Albay Gulf on Monday.
A demand letter, issued by the city agriculture office and prepared by city legal officer Marietta Belgica, was sent Friday to the ANH TV Shipping, a company with business address at Hai-Phong, Vietnam, that owned the cargo vessel, MV Ocean 3.
Rhoniel T. Estevez, chief operations officer of the city’s fishery enforcement team, read the letter aloud to the boat captain when city authorities boarded the ship on Friday morning. The vessel is now anchored and being held at the port of Legazpi.
Ship captain Tran Dai Nghia quietly received the letter handed by the city official in the presence of Philippine Coast Guard personnel.
Nghia signed a receipt of the letter and told officials here that he would immediately send it to his company in Vietnam.
Nghia and his 20-man crew, all of whom are also Vietnamese, have decided to remain inside the vessel after the Coast Guard barred MV Ocean 3 from leaving.
According to the demand letter, the shipping company has to pay P1 million for the actual damage that MV Ocean 3 caused to the reef and another P3 million for the cost of rehabilitating the destroyed reef.
Denson Reef, covering an area of about 3 hectares located about 5 nautical miles (9.26 kilometers) from the city’s port, is a marine conservation area managed by the city government. It is being preserved as a fishing ground for the city’s marginal fishermen who use traditional hook-and-line fishing methods.
Based on a check made on Wednesday by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Bicol, at least 1,200 square meters (not 2,000 sq m as earlier reported) of the coral reef was “structurally and superficially” damaged by MV Ocean 3. The ship was heading back for Vietnam after unloading its rice cargo at the Legazpi City port when it ran aground about 9 kilometers from the port around 8 a.m. on Monday.
During a site inspection, divers recovered crushed corals and giant clams that were tainted with paint, an indication that the hull of the ship struck hard at the coral reef.
One of the divers, Renato del Mundo, said the affected area was a “total wreck.”
Benigno Redito, chief of the city’s integrated coastal resource management unit, said his office is hoping that the Vietnamese shipping firm would agree to an amicable settlement so that the city government would no longer need to file a case against it.
Redito estimated that it would take at least four to five years to rehabilitate the damaged reef.
The compensation that the city would get from the Vietnamese vessel would be used, among others, to purchase dive boats, scuba gears and to hire divers to closely monitor and guard against illegal fishing and destructive operations when the rehabilitation of Denson Reef begins, said Redito.
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