CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, PHILIPPINES – Cagayan de Oro City begins the suggested initiative to restore coral reefs that have suffered damage within the 12-hectare marine protected area in Barangay Bonbon.
The destruction occurred as a result of the underwater cable installation conducted by a telecommunications company in 2022, which is yet to commence.
Pablo Rojas Jr., the chief of the Fisheries Division at the Agriculture Productivity Operations Office, clarified that coral reef restoration requires a meticulously planned intervention due to its technical nature.
Rojas emphasized that they are unable to initiate the project until the funds committed by the independent contractor of DITO Telecommunity Corp. are available.
“Without the money, we cannot promise that we can start or kick off,” Rojas said on Tuesday, January 30.
As per the City Mayor’s Office’s communication to the city council dated September 28, Huawei Marine Technologies, serving as the independent contractor, carried out the installation of DITO’s submarine fiber optic cable within the marine protected area in the barangay in June 2022.
A team, comprising representatives from city government offices and government agencies, conducted a monitoring dive in July 2022, identifying various damages, including abrasions on massive corals, dislodgement of branching corals, and fragmentation of branching coral forms.
In a letter addressed to the City Legal Office and signed by Benedicto Lacsamana, director of DITO’s construction, acquisition, and permitting division, DITO stated that the company lacks control over the activities of its independent contractor.
Nevertheless, Huawei Marine Technologies has agreed to pay P1.4 million to address the issue and has expressed readiness to undertake necessary measures to mitigate the impact, as stated in the contractor’s letter to DITO on May 17, 2023.
On January 29, the city council approved proposed Ordinance No. 2024-371, granting authorization to Mayor Rolando Uy as the city government’s representative to engage in and sign the settlement agreement with DITO Telecommunity Corp., encompassing the restoration project with a value of P1.4 million.
“We’re very happy because we have been waiting for so long,” Rojas said.
Rojas explained that the agreement was recently submitted for inclusion in the city council’s session agenda this year due to an extended exchange of communications on the issue.
During the waiting period for the commencement of the restoration project, the fisheries division is counting on the natural healing ability of coral reefs, particularly since they are located within the confines of the marine protected area. Additionally, they have bolstered monitoring and enforcement efforts by local authorities to prevent any further harm.
The chief of the fisheries division underscored the importance of safeguarding these coral reefs, emphasizing that they serve as a sanctuary for specific marine species.
“This is not only about the payment after the damage, but this is about losing the time and opportunity of these corals to house and nurse potential baby fish,” Rojas added.