By Minerva Newman
CEBU CITY — A 5,000-ton container vessel dropped anchor in the waters of Bogo Shoal, a marine protected area (MPA) in Talisay City, Cebu that endangered the reef structure that was still recovering from damage caused by a cargo ship that struck it in 2009, reported the Knight Stewards of the Sea Inc. (Seaknights 2.0) in its Facebook posts.
The Seaknights 2.0 is an all-volunteer group of divers committed to promoting the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources and it has been doing reef management-related work in Talisay City since 2008.
The group has worked closely with the Talisay City’s environment committee, which in turn works with the Office of the City Agriculturist and Bantay Dagat to maintain and protect Bogo Shoal and the six other reef structures of the city.
It was the SeaKnights 2.0 that raised the alarm and submitted an incident report against Ocean Infinity with the Talisay City Police Office after a team of divers entered the Bogo Shoal and saw the cargo transport anchored in the area.
According to Seaknight’s posts that the Manila-registered vessel, Ocean Infinity, also snagged a buoy owned by the Talisay City Government, and installed by SeaKnights a week ago to mark the eastern boundary of the four-hectare shoal.
Talisay City legal officer Atty. Beverly Tutor said that they already know that the vessel caused damage. “We need to know now if there is damage underwater as well,” Tutor said in reference to the vessel having dropped anchor while inside the MPA, itself a prohibited act.
Tutor met with the representatives of the company that owns Ocean Infinity — Oceanic Container Lines Inc. and other stakeholders Monday, February 17, to lead the planning of a damage assessment to be done within the week by a team composed of representatives from the Coast Guard, the city’s Bantay Dagat, SeaKnights, and the shipping firm.
Florifer Buñao, officer-in-charge of Oceanic’s Cebu branch, expressed willingness to participate in the fact-finding activity and she did not contest the vessel’s encroachment at the MPA.
Ocean Infinity strayed into the MPA while pulling along a sister ship, reported to be the Ocean Victory, which had been anchored off the coast of Barangay Poblacion, Talisay City and outside the designated area for ships waiting to enter the Cebu International Port, Seaknight 2.0 said.
It was not known why the second ship needed towing, according to Seaknight 2.0 the towing in turn, happened after the shipping firm received a call from the Coast Guard informing it that Ocean Victory was anchored in the wrong place, narrated Coast Guard Petty Officer 3 James Cagigas.
Cagigas said he noticed the ship and where it was anchored after a recent visit to Gullas’s office. Vessels scheduled to enter the Cebu International Port regularly dock off the coast of Talisay City, a specific portion of the city’s coastal waters is designated as anchorage area by the Cebu Ports Authority, Cagigas added.
City Councilor Antonio Bacaltos Jr., who had a separate meeting with SeaKnights, said his committee on the environment has long been concerned of the designated anchorage area because of the risk large ships pose to the MPA and other reef structures and to the fisherfolk who catch fish nearby.
Bacaltos said that the city in the past was able to collect a share of the fees from the port authority, which they’ve funneled back into the reef. However, he added, the port authority’s new management is of the position that the city has no right over the payments.