In the past I have spoken about Maritime safety and ships running aground in the area and the dangers that these problems can cause. Even a small Sea Mount called Takut Kabu in General Santos which is very close to the Petron Fuel Depot Pier is a real Danger for the City but still it is being ignored.
We have had the 2 major groundings of large sea going vessels in the last 3 years out on Bakud Reef, both of these ships were Captained and Crewed by Philippino’s so the danger is very real to the General Santos area. If these Maritime Experts can manage to hit a very large and clearly visible reef in open ocean then whats to stop them from finding and running aground on a small reef that is not usually visible and is only 3meters deep on a low tide.
There are quite few people in the area who are very worried about the situation with the ships moving within the bay quite simply because of the very poor safety record in the last few years, but not the City Government.
When you think of General Santos and Sarangani Bay, a lot of people make their living from its waters and an oil spill is the last thing that is required here.
We have the fish landing here, plenty of export fish are traded ever day here. There are several fish canaries here which export their goods all over the world. There are many fish and prawn farms all around the bay area who use the waters from the bay in their growing process. There are floating fish cages where several species of fish are cultured and many small fishermen make their living gathering the bounty of the waters of the bay.
Just a few weeks ago, a good sized ship actually ran aground on Takut Kabu and cut a trench nearly 3 meters deep, the ship had to be pulled of as it was stuck fast. This Sea Mount is only about 300 meters from the Petron Pier and very near to a new fishing company pier constructed by a very large international fishing company so if ships were to run aground leaving either of these two facilities there would probably not be sufficient room to get ships in to tow the stranded ship off from the direction it went aground..
An oil spill of any size would be a disaster to the area because the bay has a smaller mouth so currents tend to be circular so that any oil spill would go round and round the bay not missing any fore shore and any infrastructure.
There is oil spill containment equipment at the Petron Depot but all of it would easily fit onto the back of a small pickup so basically it would be quite useless in any attempt to contain an oil spill.
If we had an oil spill I am sure that many of the international companies who buy the export quality fish would think twice about continuing to do business even if the fish are not caught locally, they have their clients and reputations to think about.
The Floating Fish Cage Industry would be totally wiped out and most if not all of the on shore fish ponds would be unable to continue doing business.
The poor fishermen would probably keep on fishing if possible and would put contaminated fish into the local food chain causing probable health problems.
Local Wild Life would be affected as sea birds would be covered with oil. There are Marine Turtles, Dugongs, Dolphins and Whales which live in the bay, all these have to come to the surface to breath. Where would the money come from to clean up such a mess?
Takut Kabu is only a very small Sea Mount which could easily be marked off using 3 or 4 buoys, we marked it before but the buoys were lost as big fishing boats would tie up to them until they broke away.
Unfortunately the powers that be still do not seem to care about this problem, the cost of producing buoys would be very minimal and in fact they could probably get donations of buoys and chains from the local fishing companies. Anchor blocks are very easy to produce.
There is a good probability that no accident will happen and the bay will stay safe but there is also a small possibility that an accident will happen so would it not be a good investment for the city to make basic precautions to minimise the chances and prevent such accidents before they happen, I think so anyway!
Chris Dearne, aka "GenSan Chris" is a long term resident of the Philippines. Chris has been living in General Santos City since 1992! Chris owns a hotel in General Santos called Cambridge Farm Hotel, and also the Cambridge Dive Center, formerly Tuna City Scuba Center. Chris' interests include Scuba Diving, Instructing, and Formula 1 Racing.