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Ship runs aground, ruins coral reefs

/ 01:30 AM June 14, 2016

CEBU CITY—A Panamanian-registered cargo ship ran aground in a shark sanctuary and a known diving destination in Daanbantayan town in northern Cebu province, ruining nearly three hectares of coral reefs.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Cebu Station was still trying to find out why the 29,104-ton MV Belle Rose broke down off Monad Shoal though there was no weather disturbance. The submerged shoal serves as cleaning stations of thresher sharks.

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The vessel, registered under Alpha Ship Management Corp., was loaded with bags of cement and had an all-Filipino crew of eight officers and 12 members. It came from Tsukimi, Japan, and was heading to San Fernando town in southern Cebu.

“We are asking the ship captain to submit their marine protest within 24 hours,” Cmdr. Agapito Bibat, PCG-Cebu chief, said in a phone interview. The captain was identified as Vicharniel delos Reyes.

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PCG divers did not find any leak in the hull or oil traces in the surface water. But initial findings made by divers of Project Sharklink showed that a reef area, measuring 480 meters by 60 meters, was damaged.

Project Sharklink, which is based on Malapascua Island where Monad Shoal belongs, is composed of divers, conservationists and educators who are working to promote sustainable dive tourism that should benefit both the community and the marine animals.

Garry Cases, a marine biologist and a member of the group, said a thorough assessment had to be conducted to determine the coral reef species affected.

Vince Cinches, oceans campaigner of Greenpeace, said the Belle Rose should not be allowed to leave the country to ensure that its owner rehabilitate the damaged reefs. “We want to make sure the accountability … It takes time to rehabilitate these coral reefs,” he said.

Bibat said the ship would be moved to another port so that sea travel would not be hampered.

Corro said a thorough investigation should be conducted before any legal actions could be taken against the shipping company.

Daanbantayan Mayor Augusto Corro signed an executive order on June 2, 2015, creating the shark and ray sanctuary on Monad Shoal and Gato Island off Malapascua. The measure was intended to strengthen the protection of the species crucial to the town’s tourism.

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TAGS: Coral reefs, Ship
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