13 foreigners charged with polluting Sarangani Bay
ALABEL, Sarangani—The municipal government of Glan has filed criminal charges against 11 crewmen of a Malaysian lighterage company accused of dumping an unspecified amount of coal residue from their barge and tugboat into Sarangani Bay two months ago.
Mayor Victor James Yap Sr. of the municipality of Glan personally filed the complaint on Monday at the office of provincial prosecutor Felipe Vicente Velasco against the officers and crew of the tugboat Oceania 1 and the barge Oceania 2 owned by the Malaysian company Woodman Miri Sarawak.
Named respondents were Captain Samsudin, Kyaw Htay, Shwe Thann, Keso Bin Tarjuki, Tu Kah Hua, Tar Var Linmyint, M. Fauzi Bin Apandi, Kumaedi, Russetia Wahit, M. Zaiful Hosen, and Lau Nai Sing. The respondents are Malaysian, Indonesian and Burmese nationals.
The foreigners were charged with pollution under the provisions of four different laws: the Clean Water Act, the National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas) Act of 1992, Presidential Decree 979, and the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.
In the complaint sheet, the Glan government said that the foreigners “willfully and feloniously dumped pollutants on the sea water believed to be coal, of quantity incapable of being known or estimated” on May 26.
“Regardless of the quantity, we should throw the book at the violators. We should not fear filing appropriate charges,” Governor Miguel Dominguez said in reaction to the complaint.
The two vessels were then anchored about 200 meters from Barangay Kapatan in Glan when their crew were seen by people at a resort dumping coal residue in the bay, a protected marine sanctuary.
An employee of the Sarangani provincial government who was in a nearby resort managed to take photos of the crew cleaning up their vessels and informed the Coast Guard, which sent a team to verify the incident. The crew was held along with their vessels.
The crewmen admitted dumping coal residue into the sea, investigators said.
“The area where the act of dumping pollutants (was committed) is fronting a private resort named Belmar Ecopark Beach Resort. As the activity was done in broad daylight it was witnessed by quite a number of people,” Yap said.
He said the owner of one of the beach resort even boarded a small boat and asked the captain of the tugboat to stop his men from dumping pollutants into the water.
In a later report, the Coast Guard said the barge had unloaded coal in Manila and was set to load scrap metals at the Makar Port for transport to Cebu before sailing back to Malaysia.
But because the scrap metals were still being readied at the time it docked at Makar, the ship’s captain ordered his men to temporarily sail away in a bid to avoid accumulating docking fees.
Arnel Zapatos, provincial legal officer, said aside from violating anti-pollution laws, the vessels also illegally anchored off Kapatan.
Dominguez said the case of the two vessels was not isolated.
“We are just lucky because we were able to document it through photographs. That’s why we were able to respond quickly,” Dominguez added.
Zapatos said the vessels remained under the custody of Glan port authorities.