By Joey Gabieta
Inquirer Visayas

TACLOBAN CITY— A shipping firm has agreed to pay P917,000 to the Maripipi municipal government in compensation for damage wrought on its coral reefs by one of the shipping line’s vessels.
Of the amount, P500,000 would be used to rehabilitate the damaged coral reefs, said Ritchie Peñaflor, Maripipi’s operations chief.

June Racuela, representing Wisdom Marine Lines, and Maripipi Mayor Uldarico Marocol met at the provincial proseuctor’s office in Naval, Biliran on Tuesday to agree on the compensation package.

Peñaflor said a check will be issued by the shipping firm on Tuesday at the latest.

The MV Unicorn Logger, the vessel that ran aground on the town’s coral reef, and its 18 Vietnamese crewmen, cannot leave Naval, near where the vessel is docked, until Maripipi receives payment.

The MV Unicorn Logger was towed by the Philippine Coast Guard on June 15 out of the coral reef area. All its crewmen chose to stay inside the vessel.

Last June 13, the MV Unicorn Logger, which is loaded with 1,607 pieces of lumber, ran aground on Sambawan Islet around 7:10 p.m., causing damage to a coral reef area measuring 270 square meters.

The site is 50 to 60 meters from the Sambawan Beach Resort and Diving Camp, which is owned by the local government unit of Maripipi.
The MV Unicorn Logger left from Sandakan, Malaysia last June 11 and was bound for Japan.
The Sambawan Islet is one of Maripipi’s tourist spots which the local government has been promoting as a diving site, Penaflor said.

The area where the vessel hit the coral reefs is just one of three diving sites in Sambawan Islet, which has an area of 2.89 hectares.

In a recent interview, Navy spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said foreign vessels run aground in Philippine coral reefs, particularly the Tubbataha Reefs National Park, because they are able to enter Philippine territory undetected.

“There are two contemporary and complementing realities. Number one is that our borders are porous and our coastlines are vast. Second is the limitation of our equipment and the number of vessels that we have,” said Arevalo.

“Those are the contemporary realities that we have to contend with but we are always maintaining that even with what we have, we are still doing what we can do,” Arevalo said.
Arevalo said the Navy only has a number of ships and aircraft available that can patrol the Philippines’ territorial waters. With a report by Nikko Dizon

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