GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Scuba divers here said a wide patch of natural and artificially-grown corals has been destroyed due to the ongoing construction of an unloading jetty in Maasim, Sarangani where a coal-fired power plant is being built.

Tuna exporter and diver John Heitz said coral formations as big as sedans were dragged and uprooted by cables that are now anchoring four barges in Kamanga in Maasim, site of a 100-megawatt coal-fired power plant owned by the Alcantara’s Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC).

Heitz said he already wrote to Equipment Engineers Inc (EEI), one of the sub-contractors of the Korean-owned Dailem Philippines Inc, which won the bid to construct the US$250 million project.

“(T)hat area is (home to) one of the best coral reefs I have seen in this part of Mindanao. In many ways it is better than the coral reef of the marine protected area in the Tinoto-Kamanga area,” Heitz said in his letter.

Several patches of corals were destroyed by anchor cables. Pic: John Heitz.

The Tinoto Wall is one of the best and most pristine dive spots in Mindanao, dropping to more than 1,500 meters on the floor of Sarangani Bay. 

It is just a kilometer away from the construction site.

Heitz also claimed the contractors altered the design of the jetty. 

“Instead of constructing the jetty at a depth that runs 14-meters parallel to the shore, they are now moving it 7 meters deep,” the former US Peace Corps volunteer Heitz alleged.

Heitz said he and other dive enthusiasts have already deployed more than 130 concrete domes in the area.

Trash litters the seabed where the jetty is being constructed. Pic: John Heitz

SEC has likewise deployed several hundreds of similar artificial reef domes that were designed by Heitz and British diving buddy Chris Dearne.

These artificial reef domes are already teeming with coral and sponges and other marine lives.

This artificial reef dome structure can be found some 2 kilometers away from the construction site. Pic: John Heitz.

SEC project manager Nicandro Fucoy told a local TV station here that they are not aware of the damage but promised to look into the allegations.

“I have instructed our people in the site to look into this matter,” Fucoy told ABS-CBN’s Jay Dayupay.

He said they are just waiting for the results of the assessment of divers they have sent to assess the area.

Pipes lay in the bottom of the area damaging the corals. Pic: Chris Dearne

Fucoy also said they are willing to repair and compensate for whatever damage EEI may have caused in the course of the construction.

Heitz, a long-time resident here, also said they have scheduled another dive to assess the extent of the damage.

But he said it could be larger than the damage done by a US Navy mine sweeper that ran aground Tubbataha Reef in January last year.

Pictures provided by Heitz likewise showed trash, reportedly coming from the barges, at the bottom of the area.

Retired fireman and former British soldier Chris Dearne described the corals to have been “pretty well smashed up by the company.”

The Kamanga power plant is scheduled to go on commercial stream in the last quarter of 2015.

The power plant is designed to deliver 200 megawatts of electricity but only the first 100-MW plant is undergoing construction.

SEC and local power distributor South Cotabato II Elective Cooperative (Socoteco 2), have entered into a power sales agreement for the supply of 75 megawatts for the franchise.

The supply deal will help ease power supply shortage in the franchise area of Socoteco 2 which covers Sarangani, General Santos City and the towns of Polomolok and Tupi in South Cotabato.

Socoteco 2 has perennially experienced reduced power supply due to decreasing capacities in the Mindanao grid.