A foreign lawyer and videographer caught two commercial fishing vessels and four smaller boats dumping used oil near Siete Pecados, a snorkeling haven and marine protected area (MPA) in Coron town.
Atty. Sergei Tokmakov, who is based in San Diego, California, U.S.A., posted photos taken by his drone on Saturday, September 15, to the Facebook page of the Philippine Tourism Commission Group (PTCG).
The photos captured one of the commercial fishing vessels with a rubber boat attached to it that was dumping massive amounts of used oil.
Tokmakov’s post on the PTCG Facebook page has been shared 351 times and liked by over 660 followers.
Coron Mayor Ajerico Barracoso downplayed the report on Wednesday which happened in their municipal waters, calling it an “isolated case.”
Barracoso told Palawan News that even if they are commercial fishing vessels, they did not operate within the 15-kilometer Coron municipal fishing restriction and just took shelter in the area to avoid being caught by strong winds, waves, and heavy rains due to super typhoon “Ompong.”
“Parang nagtago lang sila noong bagyo. Baka naglinis lang ng piyesa or what,” he said.
He added that the incident had been reported to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and his office is now waiting for the full report of the investigation it had conducted.
“Ang pagkasabi nila sa amin ay magbibigay sila ng report. Sa initial [na report], na-identify na nila ‘yong pangalan ng fishing company. ‘Yon pa lang, wala pa silang final report,” he pointed out.
PCG-Coron chief Seaman 2nd Class Khalid Khan Ibañez said in a separate interview that their initial investigation showed that the incident happened on September 14, but was only reported to them a day after by a staff of the town’s municipal tourism office.
Ibañez said the Coron tourism personnel saw the viral Facebook photos of Kuya Jack, which was taken by the drone of a Russian videographer who happened to be filming that day around the Maquinit Hotsprings and Siete Pecados areas.
The PCG immediately went to the area on Sunday, September 16, and found no trace of oil within the area of Siete Pecados, he said.
“Ang report nila [sa amin], nakita lang daw nila [because] someone posted it on Facebook na mayroong nag-oil spill. Nag-respond kami kaagad sa area, nag-organize kaagad kami ng team. Pagpunta namin doon negative na, wala na ‘yong oil spill, malinis na ‘yong dagat. [Regarding the fishing vessels], wala na talaga [kaming] naabutan, nag-shelter lang talaga sila noong kasagsagan ng bagyo,” he also said.
PCG- Coron, he added, is currently conducting an investigation of the incident but refused to reveal the name of the fishing company until the probe has been completed.
Eriberto Saños, chief of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Coron, said there is a need for an intensified joint effort between the PCG, the local government and stakeholders.
“Ang dapat diyan talagang maging attentive ‘yong Coast Guard at saka ‘yong LGU,” said Saños.
Felizardo Cayatoc, provincial environment and natural resources officer, on the other hand, criticized the Facebook post as an “unverified cyber act that could potentially damage Coron’s image.”
“Hindi naman tama ang ginawa. Dapat responsible sa pag-post mga ganito kasi kawawa ang Palawan. Maaring ang picture na ito ay lumang kuha na,” he said.
He cited the report of the PCG and the CENRO in Coron that there was no oil spill contrary to what was posted in the social media.
“Kung merong oil spill ay hindi naman yan mag-se-settle, makikita yan. Very visible ang mga ganyan. Makikita mo rin ang signs sa mangrove areas pero dito ay it turned out na negative,” Cayatoc said.