DAVAO CITY – The multi-billion peso 3.98-kilometer Davao City-Island Garden City of Samal (IGaCos) connector project would cause an “irreparable, irremediable, and incalculable damage” on the corals and other marine life in the Paradise Reef, marine experts said.
Dr. Filipina Sotto, former head of the marine biology department of the University of San Carlos and Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving commissioner recently led a team of marine biologists who conducted a marine science study on the reef.
As a result of that study, Sotto asked the government to change the final bridge alignment for the project, and choose an area in front of the Bridgeport area instead as the infrastructure’s
“final landing site” to avoid destroying the marine life.
She said that the findings of their study found out that the Paradise Reef had the richest marine biodiversity as compared to Bridgeport, which had the “least biologically productive area” among the three stations covered in their study.
Bridgeport is a 12-hectare township project of Damosa Land Inc., owned by the family of former Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio “Tony Boy” Floirendo Jr., a close political ally of President Duterte.
The location of the township project was identified by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in its 2016 study as the “best site” for the construction of the main bridge and the approach viaduct on Samal Island, she said.
The Rodriguez family, which owns the Paradise Island Park and Beach Resort and Costa Marina Beach Resort, also offered to donate the beach front of El Paril Beach as the “landing site” of the bridge project just to preserve the Paradise Reef.
Joey Gatus, a member of the Federation of Institution for Marine and Freshwater Sciences (FIMFS) and Philippine Association of Marine Sciences (PAMS), said the widespread sedimentation and emission of plumes that may happen as a result of the digging in the seabed would affect not only the reef where the landing site would be put but also the contiguous reefs.
He estimated that the reef within a half-kilometer radius from the location of the landing site would be destroyed, a destruction which cannot be prevented even if the engineers would put a sediment trap to contain the spread of plumes.
“As we all know, Pakiputan strait is really a ‘high velocity’ current. You would expect a wider distribution of those plumes, if not mitigated properly. And, you know, sedimentation or the sediments and corals don’t match together because corals will be smothered and covered by the sediments. So, that particular area, in between, expect those coral reefs to be, conservatively half a kilometer, affected,” he added.
The high current in the strait would carry light sediments across the Davao Gulf.
“But knowing the current system in Pakiputan is quite fast, it means it can carry these light sediments to much wider areas. If they really follow the silt curtain and everything that also would help. But in terms of directly hit, whether you put a curtain or not, there is half a kilometer that would be affected. For those scuba divers take a picture, that might be your last but we’re not hoping for that. We’re hoping to fight it out,” he said.
The construction of the bridge is expected to start in the first quarter of 2021.