COA hits MGB for P36M spent on 'unseaworthy' survey ship

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the environment department's Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for the millions of pesos it spent on a survey ship that "to date… has remained unseaworthy."

According to the COA, the RPS Explorer owned by the MGB has undergone P36.72-million worth of repairs and maintenance work from 2012 to 2017, but it has not been deployed since 2011.

"The Bureau spent P36,720,930.05 for the repair and maintenance of RPS Explorer from 2012 to February 2017 and yet it has never been used and has not served its purpose for which it was acquired over the same period. To date, it has remained unseaworthy," the COA said in its 2016 report on the bureau released on August 1.

Below is a breakdown per year of the expenses the MGB spent on repair and maintenance of the RPS Explorer:

The 33-year-old survey ship was used for the government's offshore mineral exploration works from 1984 to 2001, with a record of 40 extended cruise missions.

From 2006 to 2011, meanwhile, the ship logged 1,089 sailing hours after it was drafted by the Philippine Navy for coastal watch, assessment and clean-up of abandoned mines in coastal or marine areas.

The RPS Explorer was last deployed in June 2011, when the MGB conducted marine geophysical and geological survey in the exploration permit area of Colossal Mining Corporation, off the coast of Northern Cagayan province.

COA said that the audit team assigned to the MGB requested for the ship's maintenance program but did not receive the required documents from the bureau's Marine Geological Survey Division (MGSD).

COA also noted that the 66,000 liters of fuel in the ship's tanks was reported to have been contaminated with fresh water.

In its update, the MGSD said the ship has undergone successful repair while at a dry dock in Mariveles, Bataan. It has also done successful sea trials according to the division.

In its response to the audit findings, the MGSD said the RPS Explorer's maintenance budget has not changed since its acquisition. This limitation in budget contributed to the deterioration of the ship which should have been routinely maintained to stay seaworthy.

"Comparing the vessel to other seacraft or watercraft, the RPS Explorer can be categorized as still young and can be greatly and beneficially utilized as a geoscientific survey platform for several more years or decades," it added. –