Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Mactan Saga: Voices of the Living and the Dead

On the continuing saga of M/V Mactan, I would like the voices of concerned Sibalenhons to take over, for their insights and comments will illuminate us further on the storm whipped up by the intention of the previous Sibale administration to conduct a fire sale of the sunken vessel.

“Perhaps, if there's one person who would vehemently object to the salvaging of M/V Mactan, it would be my brother-in-law, Capt. Jerry Cedeno,” Geoffrey Fabroa writes. “He was a young deck apprentice mate when the tragedy occurred off Maisoting Baybay in July 1973. The cause was overloading and the rough seas, but some said it was not so because the area was located at the northern part of Sibale where strong winds from the south is blocked by the island.

“The management of Compania Maritima (the ship’s owner) stationed him to watch the sunken vessel for a year before he went back to Manila to pursue his merchant marine career on board a foreign vessel.“Although re-floatation is now impossible, salvaging is very much viable because the ship’s metal structure could be still intact even after thirty years of it being under the sea. Proof to that was during the late 60's and early 70's, prospectors were still able to recover scrap materials from the sunken Japanese battle ship bombed by the Americans during World War II inside Concepcion Bay.

“What really bothers me is that salvaging uses a lot of dynamite. This would cause severe damage to our coral reefs and other marine species. I just hope that the incoming administration under Mayor Lemuel Cipriano will refuse to grant a permit to this salvage company and eventually douse off the silly ambition of people for the promotion of self-interest at the expense of other Sibalenhons.”

Geoffrey is interested to know the proponents’ motivation in selling a junk. “If ever the sale has been perfected already, we must be very watchful if the proceeds go to the general fund of the municipality,” he added.

Here's Merwin’s take: “I wish that this sunken vessel (will) be preserved to be one of our diving sites. (The) salvaging of Mactan will cause significant damage, not just to the coral reefs of Sibale, but also to the bright future of Sibalenhons who could benefit from ecotourism which we’re trying to promote and develop.”

Writes Charito: “I'm not a legal expert, but I suppose there were omissions committed in the hastily crafted resolution. For example, some proponents might have wanted to declare the sunken vessel a sanctuary. Was this considered?”

Rogel Fornal, another oppositionist to the sale, is very vocal—and technical. He writes: “For transparency, public bidding is necessary. Thus, a general public announcement, or a newspaper advertisement of an "Invitation to Bid" is a must. The local government should prepare a "Tender or Bid & Contract" document highlighting the salvaging methodology, scope of work, minimum appraisal bid, duration of execution, and abandonment plan, including the conditions for environmental clearance certificate compliance. A bidding committee should be established to handle the tedious process of approvals and recommendations and to monitor sound and safe implementation of the undertaking. This is in addition to the requirement for the contractor to assume all risks and guarantees and to secure all government mandatory clearances, permits, and licenses.”

Harold Feudo, who seemed to know the informant who uncovered the covert plan, writes:

“If government requirements have to be complied with, it seems the process will take time before the sale could be perfected. But again, the latest information from the island tells us that a speedy arrangement is being handled by an agent. Nupay ing yayagor sa last trip.”

But there is a little complication, Harold added.

“There is also a claimant of the sunken vessel. Compania Maritima, who owns M/V Mactan, had apparently sold the vessel to a salvage company in 1979, but it is only after the May 14 elections that a representative from the salvage company had gone to Sibale to secure the approval of the local government for the salvaging of the vessel. The informant said, however, that upon knowing that Mayor Merenciano Fabregas had lost his last term bid, the representative aborted his plan. He might have thought that it would be easier to transact business with the new set of incoming officials.”

“Now, my point here is that there would be a conflict of ownership of M/V Mactan between the local government and the salvage company. Assuming that the claim of the salvage company is legal, what would be the status of SB Resolution 2007-17? Medyo pay naging kumplikado ka sitwasyon. Let's wait and see.”

No, Harold. You don’t have to wait. You just have to ask questions, because Merwin’s informant had said that the salvage company had apparently already laid down the explosives to blast the ship out of the water. If the salvage company receives the go signal (I don’t know really from whom), then be very afraid that all the coral reefs in that part of Sibale will also be blasted to kingdom come.

My first two questions are: Who is in-charge of stopping this salvage animal from doing harm to our marine environment, and whose is the crazed mind that engineered the sale?

“Until we get to the bottom line or final details of this story from the local government, we cannot act,” Rogel said.

No, Rogel. There is something you and your group, the Sibale Def, can do. You can write a stinging rebuke to whoever it was who manipulated this whole transaction and ask that he or she use a little brainpower to realize the horrendous implication of dynamiting a sunken vessel.
Nayum-udan niy gani kag mga kalag ruto, a-payupkan pa! Can you imagine if, heaven forbid, it were Sibalenhon passengers who perished in the ship? Can anybody standup and say, “Yes, you can blast M/V Mactan to hell?” I am just asking.

As a postscript, there is an amount of money which the salvage operation will endow to the island, if—and this “if” is a big possibility—money is the bottom line of l’affaire Mactan. And it is, if Rogel, who says scrap costs P72,000 a ton, is to be believed.

But there are many things money can’t buy. It can’t buy, for example, an unsullied reputation and honor of being true to one’s calling as a public servant. Money can’t buy peace of mind and a guilt-free conscience.

Blast explosives can’t be selective, too. One cannot tell dynamites to explode only when there are no fishes around. Neither can you instruct explosives not to pulverize a coral reef. How about the bones of the dead, if there are still any, inside M/V Mactan’s bowels? Can they complain to the salvage company? Can they petition Mayor Cipriano to use all his powers to banish the people behind the project because if they continue their vile deed, it will be a monumental disrespect for the dead and a destruction of the future of the living?

M/V Mactan is already at rest. Let her rest forever.

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