The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has launched an investigation into the alleged dumping of waste by cargo ships docked at the port of Virac last week.
Personnel of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) visited the port and inspected the sea at the port and nearby shores for the presence of the waste, which was reportedly released into the water sometime at noon of June 15, 2021.
A concerned barangay official of Sta. Cruz spotted a dark brown mass of what he believed to be human feces floating on the water just in front of the Philippine Coast Guard station.
He requested a Tribune contributor to fly a drone and take a video of the waste as well as the vicinity of the port to try to trace where the waste came from.
In the brief video, the waste appears to have come from the area where the cargo ships were docked and was apparently carried by the prevailing current to the area in front of the PCG station.
In an interview with the Tribune, a Coast Guard personnel claimed the floating brown mass came from mud carried by the cargo trucks’ tires and were washed off by the vessel crew after they docked at the port.
This prompted the Tribune to report the matter to the DENR-EMB office at San Isidro Village on Friday, June 18.
Unconvinced of the truck tire mud theory, the EMB decided to take a water sample from the sea for laboratory testing.
It said the PCG should have reported the incident to their office for the conduct of a proper investigation.
Last month, the DENR issued a Notice of Violation against the owner of a vessel which discharged untreated wastewater into Manila Bay.
M/V Sarangani was identified as the source of the wastewater that reportedly came from its cooling system.
Samples taken from the actual discharge area showed the fecal coliform counts exceeded DENR standards, along with the oil and grease traced to the vessel.
The shipowner is liable to pay fines and rehabilitate the vessel, as well as face charges to be filed by the PCG for violation of Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, the Marine Pollution Decree of 1976, Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, and other regulations of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
Based on the provisions of the Clean Water Act, the vessel owner, if held liable, has to pay a daily fine ranging from P10,000 to P200,000 from the start of the discharge until such time that it has cleaned up the affected area.
Under Memorandum Circular No. 02-2005 (Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ship), issued by the PCG in 2005, it is unlawful for any person to dispose into any body of water within the Philippines any material made of plastic including, but not limited to synthetic fishing nets and plastic garbage bags, or any domestic, cargo-associated, maintenance and/or operational waste.
Presidential Decree No. 979 also prohibits the discharge or dumping of oil, noxious gaseous and liquid substances and other harmful substances from or out of any ship, vessel, barge, or any other floating craft, or other man-made structures at sea, by any method, means or manner, into or upon the territorial and inland navigable waters of the Philippines.