CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Residents off the coast of Barangay Lower Jasaan in Jasaan town, Misamis Oriental fear the white liquid substance recently discharged by a foreign vessel would affect the marine life and their livelihood.
Sabas Tagarda Jr., Lower Jasaan village chairman, said they were alarmed at the incident, considering that there were fish cages containing thousands of milkfish fingerlings and mangrove forests in the area.
Information from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) noted that a cargo ship began discharging the substance in the afternoon of Friday (Jan. 10), but it was only reported to them hours later.
Petty Officer 2 Sherwin Emperio, PCG sub-station commander, said local officials reported an “oil spill” at 8:05 PM. They started the investigation the next day, Saturday (Jan. 11).
“After receiving the report, we went to verify. We found out that it was detergent used to clean the ship’s deck,” he said.
Based on their own investigation, Tagarda said they were informed that the vessel’s name was Hugo, reportedly one of the cargo ships that deliver raw materials to a manufacturing company that used coconut oil as main ingredient in consumer products with its base of operation in Jasaan.
Websites that feature cargo ships identify Hugo N as bulk carrier. As of Saturday morning, the vessel in question has left the area.
Effects on marine life, livelihood
Tagarda said the white substance has stuck to mangroves, rocks, and sand along the shoreline and has allegedly affected the milkfish farm in Lower Jasaan.
“Some of the fingerlings have died. I advised the fish cage owners to harvest the matured ones before they die,” he said, adding he has advised residents not to gather seashells or catch fish in the affected areas for fear that these could no longer be fit for human consumption.
In Lower Jasaan, he informed, there are four fish cages owned by private individuals, and each cage contains about 16,000 fingerlings.
Last Friday, Tagarda planted more than a hundred mangrove saplings. He fears that many of them will probably die due to the spill.
Based on the initial investigation of the PCG Marine Environmental Protection Unit based in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, the quality of the water sample they took from the affected site was “normal.”
“We still have to confirm if the substance is toxic, although if you look at the water it appears normal,” Petty Officer 2 Roy Sardoma said.
Teodoro Bacolod Jr., Regional Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Northern Mindanao, said he has dispatched a team of technical experts to investigate the substance spill.
The ship’s management, he said, could be held liable if the result of the investigation concludes that the discharged substance is toxic or has caused damage to the marine resources in the area.
“If the local government units have an ordinance on the illegal discharge of wastes at sea, then they can initiate legal action against the management of the said vessel,” he added.
Bacolod said they are coordinating with the PCG and local officials in the conduct of the investigation.
Redentor Jardin, Jasaan town mayor, in a text message Saturday morning, said he has instructed the municipal environment and resources office to conduct a thorough investigation on the cause of the spill.
“(They need to) give me a documented report so I can act accordingly within 24 hours,” he said. (davaotoday.com)