Gov’t checking up on vessel stuck near Antique coast, ready to aid Coast Guard in case of oil

Posted on January 05, 2015

OFFICIALS of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are monitoring a barge that had run aground near the coast of Antique province.

Jonathan P. Bulos, DENR acting director for environment, said the barge got stuck in a rocky area about 200 meters from the shoreline.

A statement from the Coast Guard’s Web site said the barge, named Brian, “took shelter at the vicinity waters of Barangay Balud, Tobias, Antique, as tropical depression Seniang (international name: Jangmi) battered the Visayas region.”

The barge, which was on its way to Cebu from Antique province, was assisted by M/Tug Benny, which also ran aground, amid “strong winds and big waves towards the shoreline of said barangay,” the Coast Guard said.

According to the statement, 12 crew members of Brian were able to swim to shore, while seven crew members of Benny transferred to the barge where they were soon rescued. But the quartermaster of the tugboat, German Atay, didn’t make it.

Mr. Bulos said the DENR staff in Antique have been monitoring the situation and are prepared to assist the Coast Guard in case of an oil spill or if the 6,705 metric tons of coal that the barge is carrying spills into the sea.

“We are more concerned about a possible oil spill because bunker fuel would do a lot more damage than coal. But so far, our staff there [in Antique] have not alerted us to any oil spill,” Mr. Bulos said in a telephone interview.

Sought for comment on this situation, Environment Secretary Ramon Jesus P. Paje said in a text message that “an initial investigation [is now being] conducted on the grounding of the barge. No oil spill was observed but traces of coal were observed in the water. No risk assessment was conducted.”

Mr. Paje also said the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR will conduct another inspection today, “to determine if there was a violation committed under the Clean Water Act. If there will be violation, then penalty will be imposed such as [P]200,000 per day until they address the pollution and all the cost of rehab[ilitation] will also be imposed.” -- Marites S. Villamor, Sarwell Q. Meniano and Vince Alvic Alexis F. Nonato