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Vietnam ship rams, ruins artificial reefs off GenSan

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A Vietnamese-flagged cargo vessel ran aground at a portion of the Sarangani Bay off General Santos City and damaged 200 artificial reef domes on Monday.

Substantial damages on artificial reefs installed near the shores of Barangay Dadiangas South resulted from the grounding of cargo vessel HTK Energy around noon, Omar Saikol, assistant superintendent of the Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape, said Tuesday.

The vessel was supposed to dock at the Makar port when it hit the artificial reefs, Saikol said citing initial reports from the Philippine Coast Guard.

As a result of the incident, the Sarangani protected area superintendent’s office and the city government commissioned a team of divers on Tuesday to check the extent of the damage on artificial reef domes.

Based on the initial finding by divers from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Saikol said “almost 200 artificial reefs” were destroyed by the vessel’s grounding.

“We’re getting video footage of the damages to facilitate the proper assessment and imposition of possible penalties or fines,” he told reporters.

Katherine Lopez Bitco, CENRO diver and environment management specialist, said the damaged artificial reefs were located about 20 meters from the shore.

Bitco said the area is near the main beach of the city’s Queen Tuna Park in Barangay Dadiangas South.

The damaged concrete artificial reef domes, which were installed a decade ago by a group of divers in coordination with local government units and private groups, have encrusted corals.

“The damage is quite extensive and the area could reach 100 to 200 square meters,” Bitco said.

Saikol said the damaged artificial reefs served as habitat of various fish species thriving in the area.

“The area hosts many fish species and we saw schools of fish surrounding the reefs. Now they’re in peril because of this,” he said.

The official said they will immediately recommend the convening of the Sarangani Bay’s Protected Area Management Board to further assess the damages and impose possible sanctions against the vessel.

He said the board will determine whether there’s a need to temporarily “detain” the vessel pending the resolution of the case.

“It would be difficult to hold the owner as well as its officers and crew accountable if the vessel would be allowed to leave the port,” he said.

p: wjg

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