Residents of Barangay Siblayan in Occidental
Mindoro, a nearby coastal
town, led by its Mayor Godofredo Minto, said that the M/V Island
Explorer has started to leak bunker fuel, endangering the reef
serves as a fish nursery and the major source of livelihood of
The residents have sought the help
of the non-government group, Public
Interest Law Center (PILC), to compel the Department of Environment
Natural Resources (DENR) and its attached agencies - the Apo Reef
National Park Authority, the Protected Areas Management Bureau
Philippine Coast Guard - to undertake a clean-up of the oil spill
environmental charges are being contemplated against the operator
the diving boat.
The M/V Island Explorer is reportedly
owned by Chinese businessman Juan
Wee of Scuba World and Dive World.
"We have written a letter to DENR
Secretary Elisea Gozun and strongly
urged her department to order an immediate clean-up of the oil
tow the vessel from the area to prevent potentially irreversible
to the marine park," said PILC legal counsel Marie Francesca
She said that the vessel left the port
of Batangas at about 2:30 p.m.
On Dec. 20 last year en route to the Apo Manor Reef, carrying
Passengers composed of diver-tourists, dive masters and crew.
Despite the poor weather condition,
the 150-foot, 450-ton Japanese-made
fishing boat that was converted into a diving vessel, proceeded
the trip and entered the Apo Manor Reef at about 2:30 a.m. of
"This is in utter disregard of
elementary diligence required in
traversing such areas and because of this, along with stormy weather
that caused 15-foot waves, the vessel crashed on top of the reef.
now, the vessel, lying on its side, has not been towed by its
An inspection last weekend confirmed there is an undetermined
oil spill that could get worse," said Yuvienco.
She explained that diving boats should
only start to cruise the
protected reef at daylight but the boat left at night and arrived
the reef before daylight.
Yuvienco said the Coast Guard has been
alerted about the situation but
since the incident, it has not compelled Wee to remove the boat.
earlier promised to remove the wreckage from the reef as soon
weather clears but has failed to act on the matter.
Yuvienco noted that that the boat could
have about 80,000 liters of
bunker fuel left, which is more than enough to destroy the entire
Manor Reef and even spill to Palawan.
PILC asked Secretary Gozun to order
Wee to tow the boat from the reef
and repair the damage done. It also recommended to the DENR to
the company_s permits and license to operate pending the outcome
investigation of the seaworthiness of the company_s fleet.
"We are also considering filing
criminal and civil charges against the
company and for violation of environment and protection laws under
National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), which identifies
protected areas such as the Apo Manor Reef," said Yuvienco.
The NIPAS Act prohibits the dumping
of any waste products within
protected areas like the reef.
Environmentalists said the oil spill
will have far-reaching effects on
marine life in the waters off Mindoro and affect the livelihood
fishermen in the island.
Dr. Teresita Perez, a marine scientist
from the Ateneo de Manila
University and a member of the Samahan ng Nagtatanggol ng Agham
Teknolohiya Para sa Sambayanan, said the oil spill, even if just
water, would have a disastrous effect on live corals.
"These corals are alive and need
oxygen and light to survive. Different
species of fish, some of which can only be found in the reef,
these corals. The death of these corals will definitely cause
to go elsewhere, endangering the livelihood of nearby fishermen
the tourism industry loses one of its major attractions, especially
among divers," noted Perez.
The Apo Manor Reef National Park is
one of the more frequented dive
sites in Occidental Mindoro.
It is acclaimed as one of the world_s
best dive sites. It is a
34-kilometer reef, located 20 miles west of Mindoro proper and
tip of Busuanga, Palawan, with a narrow channel running east to
which divides the reef into two lagoon systems.
The surrounding waters are abundant
with marine fauna and luxuriant
coral growth with more than 500 coral species. Marine life includes
sharks, stingrays and manta rays.
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