Ship feared to worsen coral damage
CEBU CITY—Efforts are underway to remove a Panamanian-registered cargo vessel from a shoal off a town in Cebu province after it ran aground there and damaged at least three hectares of coral reefs.
Agapito Bibat, Philippine Coast Guard Cebu station commander, said the cargo vessel MV Belle Rose could cause more damage to the Monad Shoal, off Malapascua Island in Daanbantayan town, if it was not removed from the area, a famous dive spot.
Belle Rose settled at the bottom of the shallow portion of the sea in Monad.
Bibat said strong waves that the southwest monsoon could generate might cause the vessel to move into coral reefs that had not been damaged.
According to Bibat, Belle Rose had been immobilized and was no longer seaworthy after it suffered severe damage in its ballast tank.
One of the options being considered is to pull the vessel to deeper waters.
Benjamin Cabrido of Philippine Earth Justice Center, an environmental group involved in the salvaging of the ship, said Monad Shaol was about 10 meters deep.
To float the vessel that was in a portion of the sea was 12 meters deep, he said it should be brought to a portion of the sea where the water depth was at least 14 meters.
Cabrido, however, said the vessel could only be brought to a deeper portion of the water when the tide was high, usually between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Another option is to first remove the vessel’s cargo to reduce the ship’s total weight. Belle Rose is carrying 48,000 metric tons of clinker, a raw material for the production of cement.
Local and environment officials and groups want the vessel removed quickly to prevent further damage on the corals.
Experts estimated the amount needed to repair the damage on the coral reefs at P1.4 million at least.
The 300-hectare Manod Shoal is an underwater island frequented by thresher sharks.
Among the damaged corals is a species called brain corals, locally known as tampulong and binagong.
During a meeting at the provincial capitol on Thursday, Wilfredo Tumos, chief mate of Belle Rose, admitted that it was the first time for the ship’s crew to pass by Manod Shoal.
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