The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Region 7 will impose more than P13-million worth of penalty to those responsible for the massive oil spill that leaked from the sunken ferry, polluting valuable mangroves and fishing grounds in the province of Cebu.
Eddie Llamedo, DENR-7 information officer, said that they are now waiting for the result of the investigation of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) to determine which ship was responsible for the mishap.
“We are just waiting [for the results of the investigation]so can impose the penalty on the management of either 2GO or Sulpicio Express Siete,” Llamedo said in a telephone interview.
To recall, the St. Thomas Aquinas, the ferry that sank last week after colliding with a cargo ship near the port of Cebu, took tens of thousands of liters of fuel and engine oil with it into the water as it went down.
This now turned into an environmental catastrophe for the surrounding area as spilled fuel contaminates coastlines.
Based on initial assessment, at least 613 hectares of newly planted and natural stand mangroves in 12 coastal barangay of Cordova and Lapu-Lapu City were affected by the spill.
“As of today, our inventory and assessment showed that 328 hectares of newly planted mangrove areas under the integrated coastal resources management project [ICRMP] were affected,” he said.
Llamedo said that they are seeking penalty of P20,000 each hectare of mangrove areas, under the ICRMP, adding that another 300 hectares of natural stand mangrove areas were also affected by the spill.
On top of the penalty for the damage to coastal areas, Llamedo said that they area also computing the cost of opportunity loss, heritage value of the area, tourism losses and provisioning value of the ecosystem for food and income.
He said that they would also be charging the responsible company for the post-care and rehabilitation program of the affected areas, adding that it will take as long as four months before they can restore the area to its previous state.
“Aside from that, we will also charge them for the protection cost in the area, which are usually sourced from the local government’s protection management plan. We will come up with other computations within the week,” he said.
Llamedo said that they have already completed inventory and assessment of water quality in waters off Talisay City, Cordova and Lapu-Lapu City.
He said that they have collected nine water samplers from the areas, which would help determine whether the companies have committed violations of the Clean Water Act of 2004, particularly the violation of the water quality criteria.
Penalties under Section 27 of Republic Act 9275 may reach as high as P200,000 a day, and will continue to accumulate until waters affected by the oil spill had been cleaned up.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Wednesday said it will continue to validate the extent of the damage caused by the massive oil spill that leaked from the sunken ferry.
BFAR Director Asis Perez, who arrived in Cebu for inspection, said that several aquaculture areas devoted to seaweeds, lapu-lapu and shellfish production have been affected by the oil spill—prompting them to impose shellfish ban in the area.
Perez said that the oil spill has affected the municipality of Cordova and Lapu-Lapu City.
“Besides fish cages and seaweed farms, the spill also affected mangrove areas where shellfish are raised,” Perez said.
BFAR 7 Regional Director Andres Bojos said that they have imposed the ban on shellfish since Tuesday to ensure the safety of consumers, amid clean up and rehabilitation of the area.
Bojos also said that they have already extended assistance to some 1,750 municipal fishermen in 13 coastal barangay affected by the spill. He said that fisherfolk who still cannot venture into the seas would be given assistance in shellfish culture in the areas that are not affected by the oil spill.
“For those who still want to fish, they would be given four liters of gasoline daily, and one liter of engine oil for motorized boats,” he said.
Bojos said that Cebu continues to experience inclement weather because of the southwest monsoon, which was aggravated by tropical storm Maring.
“We are still monitoring the extent of the spill. The oil as reached the shoreline of Cordova and is spreading because of the strong waves,” he said.