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2 ships in collision asked to pay P41M

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RELATIVES attach pictures of their missing loved ones in a tent in front of Cosmopolitan Funeral Parlor at Jonquira Street, Barangay Kamagayan, Cebu City. JUNJIE MENDOZA/CEBU DAILY NEWS

CEBU CITY—The owners of two ships that collided in the waters off Talisay City on Aug. 16 are required to pay a fine of P41.704 million as compensation for destroying 443 hectares of mangroves in Cordova town and Lapu-Lapu City.

The 2GO management was also ordered to salvage their vessel, the MV St. Thomas Aquinas, which sank in the waters off Lawis Ledge in Talisay since its cargo and debris pose risks to vessels passing the narrow pathway to Cebu port.

In a demand letter dated Oct. 1, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-7) directed Enrique Go, Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. (PSACC) chair, and 2GO chair Francis Chua to pay the fine not later than Nov. 15.

The P41.704 million would be used to finance the livelihood projects for people’s organizations whose members were affected by the sinking of the St. Thomas Aquinas, said DENR-7 Regional Executive Director Isabelo Montejo in a press statement.

He said failure to pay would result in the filing of charges.

2GO assistant vice president Lito Salvio said the letter would be forwarded to their legal office for review once they receive a copy of the DENR letter.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) also sent a demand letter to 2GO management last week, directing the company to recover the sunken vessel.

Coast Guard operations officer Cmdr. Weniel Azcuna noted that the St. Thomas Aquinas, with its container vans and debris, could pose a danger to passing vessels.

The environmental hazard from the sunken vessel was still possible with the oil machinery inside the vessel, Azcuna added. The siphoning of the oil from the St. Thomas Aquinas was completed on Sept. 24.

However, the PCG had not given a deadline to the company regarding the salvaging of their vessel, Azcuna said.

The St. Thomas Aquinas of the 2GO group sank after it collided with Sulpicio Express Siete of the PSACC while entering Cebu port on Aug. 16. At least 116 persons were killed while 21 others remained missing.

Oil, however, leaked from the St. Thomas Aquinas, which affected mangroves in Cordova town and Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island. The ferry contained 20,000 liters of diesel fuel, 120,000 liters of bunker fuel and 20,000 liters of engine oil.

In his demand letter, Montejo indicated that 328 ha of newly planted mangroves and another 115 ha of productive mangroves were affected by the oil spill. These mangroves were located in 12 barangays in Cordova town and Lapu-Lapu City.

He said the 328 ha of newly planted mangrove plantation project cost P5.935 million, funded by the DENR-Integrated Coastal Resource Management Project.

The DENR-7 also estimated that fish lost in a year per hectare of the destroyed mangroves would reach P354,769,600, computed by multiplying estimated kilos of fish per year (447,120 kilos) by P80 per kilo.

Montejo explained that their decision to impose a fine on the two companies was based on Sections 6 and 9 of Chapter 2 of Republic Act No. 9483, or the Oil Pollution Compensation Act of 2007.

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