The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday (April 28) said it will be issuing a Notice of Violation against the owner of MV Sarangani after it was identified as the source of the untreated wastewater that was dumped in Manila Bay over the weekend.

It may be recalled that on Monday (April 26), Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu visited the priority area of the Manila Bay rehabilitation where he discussed the incident with representatives of the Philippine Coast Guard, the local government of Manila, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Laguna Lake Development Authority, Manila Bay Coordinating Office, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

“After the investigation, if the shipowner is found liable, the DENR will impose fines. Additionally, the owner has to rehabilitate the vessel to avoid destruction to the environment, and the pollution of our waters,” said Cimatu.

“We hope to get to the bottom of this issue during the investigation,” the environment chief added.

DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas R. Leones said that samples taken from the actual discharge area showed an effluent fecal coliform count of 1,700 most probable number per 100 milliliters (MPN/100 mL), based on the report of EMB.

This is higher than the standard effluent fecal coliform of 200 MPN/100 mL.

Likewise, the EMB reported that the ambient fecal coliform was high at 2,400 MPN/100 mL, as against the standard 100 MPN/100 mL.

Meanwhile, the oil and grease traced to the vessel were at 19 milligrams per liter (mg/L) exceeding the standard of 5 mg/L.

"We found out that the wastewater from the vessel is above the standard of the DENR. On this basis, we can now issue a Notice of Violation to the owner. A technical conference will be called to hear their side," Leones emphasized.

"After this requirement of the due process, the EMB and the Coast Guard will be filing a case against the shipowner before the Manila Bay Task Force (MBTF)," he added.

Leones said the MBTF will convene and discuss the violations of the shipowner and the penalties to be imposed.
"After we have completed the process, the MBTF will convene and they will be adjudicating the violations of the shipowner, and hopefully they will be coming up with the appropriate sanctions, penalties, and imposition of fines against the shipowner," he explained.

Leones said the shipowner could be facing charges for allegedly violating 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 PPA.

If held liable, based on the provisions of the Clean Water Act, the vessel owner 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.

"We are warning the public that if they violate laws and regulations, we will be imposing the maximum penalties and sanctions for discharging their untreated wastewater in Manila Bay," Leones said.

To avert similar incidents, Cimatu said the department will impose a 2.5-kilometer no-entry zone for vessels except for those that deliver dolomite for the ongoing beach nourishment project of the DENR. ###