SOME 300 metric tons of mv Belle Rose’s 48,000-metric-ton load needs to be unloaded and the vessel needs to be pulled out of the Monad Shoal, four nautical miles southeast of Malapascua Island in northern Cebu.

This was agreed during an emergency meeting called by Gov. Hilario Davide III with the vessel owner’s representative and government agencies yesterday.

They were heeding Philippine Coast Guard Cebu Station Commander Agapito Bibat’s warning that the stranded vessel needs to be extricated immediately, considering the country is experiencing southwest monsoon, or habagat.

Salvage plans

The season, according to a weather website, is characterized by hot and humid weather, heavy rainfall and a prevailing wind from the west.

“The vessel is lying on top of an uneven surface. Considering its heavy load, the constant movement might cause the vessel to break apart, posing a more serious threat to the surrounding environment,” Bibat said in Cebuano.

Ben Cabrido, chair of Philippine Earth Justice Center said it will cost $60,000 to replant the corals on a six-hectare area that were damaged when the vessel ran aground last Monday.

Counsel of the ship owner said the vessel is covered by an environmental damage insurance.

However, the groups will have to meet again to decide on a final salvage plan for the vessel.

“Were trying to get it out as soon as possible. We’re having a meeting right now to discuss the time in detail,” said Pedrito Faytaren Jr., who represents the ship owner.

He said the matter can be discussed in detail with the Malayan Towage and Salvage Operation.

Last Monday, Cabrido asked Roger Padyosan of Malayan Towage if there had an attempt to extricate the vessel.

Padyosan had said three tugboats were on standby beside mv Belle Rose.

Assurance

During yesterday’s meeting, it was agreed to lighten the vessel by unloading the powder load through vacuum suction before pulling the vessel out of the reef.

Padsoyan said the equipment for this.

Dive Link founder Gary Cases, a marine environment advocate, said almost three hectares of corals were damaged as a result of the incident.

Cabrido said they expect three more hectares of corals to be damaged since they expect the vessel’s hull and the tugboats’ propellers to scrape the bottom during the pullout.

The international going rate to fix reef damage, Cabrido said, is $10,000 per hectare, or a total of $60,000.

Meanwhile, Faytaren assured Cabrido that mv Belle Rose, a Panamanian-registered vessel, has protection and indemnity insurance, though he did not specify how much is covered.

With the given amount, Cabrido is suggesting an out-of-court settlement, but both parties have not decided yet.

The Province has yet to agree on Faytaren’s suggestion to conduct a joint dive to assess the damage.

He said they hired a foreign reef expert to do this.