Being a country composed of more than 7,000 islands occupied by residents that raise children who can swim and earn money diving for fish and pearls, the Philippines surprisingly registers more maritime tragedies than airline accidents.
The latest maritime tragedy involved Filipino crew of the MV Belle Rose that crashed into the Monad Shoal off Malapascua Island in the town of Daanbantayan in northern Cebu and destroyed three hectares’ worth of corals and valuable marine life the other week.
It may not have ended with a loss of human life, but the Belle Rose accident remains a maritime tragedy in that regardless of the damages that should be paid for by the vessel owners and the crew, the resulting casualties won’t be recovered overnight.
In fact it had been said that it would take years before nature heals whatever damages sustained by the shoal. In their maritime protest, the crew said they were trying to avoid some fisherfolk that were in their way as they prepared to dock and deliver the cement ordered by a Cebu-based firm.
The accident happened at dawn which would probably be used as an alibi for poor visibility by the crew. For those unfamiliar with marine navigation, one could ask whether the captain and his crew could have at least waited and plotted their course better in order to avoid the accident.
Aside from the corals, the Monad Shoal is a popular dive spot that draws thresher sharks which “clean themselves” from parasites courtesy of marine life there.
We hope it won’t take long for the salvor company tasked to drag the vessel out of the area in order to allow it to recover from the damages it sustained. The longer it stays stuck, the more damage it inflicts in the shoal.
There were assurances from the vessel’s owner that they will pay for damages, but the Cebu provincial government and the municipal government of Daanbantayan should make sure that both the owner and the crew be made not only to pay for the damages they wrought on the shoal but also to help fund whatever rehabilitation projects that will be implemented there.
We also ask the Philippine Coast Guard Cebu station if there was any other way that the accident could have been avoided and what they can do to help avoid similar or worse accidents in the future.
We hope they make sure that those responsible for the Monad Shoal debacle as well as those responsible for the deaths of passengers and marine life not only be sanctioned, but barred from working in another vessel as well.
The Coast Guard should also make good on its promise that it won’t allow the Panamanian vessel to leave until it finishes its investigation and identifies the culprits responsible for the mishap, if they haven’t been identified already.
With the damage wrought by that foreign vessel and the crew that piloted it, we hope the affected communities would not only recover but be aided in recovering by the province and the people responsible for the tragedy.
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