In a statement issued via the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department on Friday (Oct 26), the DPT Phuket office revealed that no videos or other materials documenting the deployment are to be posted online or published elsewhere following an order by the Phuket Provincial Court.
The statement recognised that the centre of controversy stemmed from claims posted on social media and noted that the order was in relation to Black Case No. 1306/2018 being heard at the Phuket Provincial Court, dated October 22, 2018.
The statement noted that the court has prohibited “the defendant from posting an online video, or sharing in Facebook or other media, until the court orders otherwise.”
However, no other details about the case were given, including what claims were made or why materials showing the deployment of the artificial reefs around Phuket were no longer allowed to be published – or published by who.
Instead, the statement gave a detailed history of the project according to DPT Phuket office under the title “Phuket clarifies the facts of the running the artificial reef construction project to restore the ecosystem for tourism.”
“According to the information presented through social media about the implementation of the coral reefs project to previde relief and revitalise the ecosystems for tourism, that content indicates that the implementation of the project is not conducted properly in accordance with the rules of the project before the application,” the statement read.
“This led to the government being damaged,” the statement added.
DPT Phuket that the artifical reefs project was initially funded in 2009 through the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor) as the operator of the project in conjunction with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR).
The initial project was rolled out in three stages:
- Fiscal Year 2009 (Oct 1, 2008-Sept 30, 2009): 1,310 artificial reef blocks placed at Sirinat National Park;
- Fiscal Year 2010 (Oct 1, 2009-Sept 30, 2010): 1,630 blocks placed at Bang Tao Beach and Kamala Beach; and
- Fiscal year 2011 (Oct 1, 2010-Sept 30, 2011):: 2,000 blocks placed at Kata Beach and Karon Beach.
The project stopped Fiscal Year 2012 to 2015 (Oct 1, 2011-Sept 30, 2015) due to no budget approval, but was re-introduced in Fiscal Year 2016 (Oct 1, 2015, Sept 30, 2016) under Chokchai Dejamorntham, the governor of Phuket at that time.
Gov Chockchai commanded the DPT Phuket to install artificial reefs “to restore eco-tourism”, the statement noted.
“The project is consistent and responsive to the national strategy for the restoration of marine natural resources and the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources was responsible for determining the location of the where the artificial reefs were to be created,” the DPT statement said.
The project used the standard artificial coral blocks from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, which are 1.5 meters wide, 1.5 meters long, 1.5 meters high, it added.
“The blocks had a correct central price (agreed price via e-bidding process) and the procurement was done in accordance with the government regulations in all respects,” the DPT assured in the statement.
The DPT explained that the project did not requirte an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), as it was one of 36 types of projects that do not require an EIA under Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) regulations.
The DPT also argued in its statement that an EIA was not required under MNRE regulations for "the construction or expansion of the site or in the sea under Article 25.1”, which specifically relates to “sand traps, sand bars and waves to protect against tides”, or under Article 25.2, which reuires an EIA be conducted for all forms of sea walls or barriers.
“And so the project could start immediately… It was not a project that required by law to be have EIA conducted,” the statement concluded.
THE DPT explained that the current project to install artificial reef blocks is supported by government budget totoalling “about” B80 million, approved by the provincial development plan and group provincial development plan.
The budget was approved by the National Legislative Assembly on January 27, 2017 for the Andaman provinces group.
The project was offered throug the e-bidding process, with Pattani Mahaphan Construction Partnership selected as lowest bidder, offering to complete the project for B63,890,342.
“Thus, the Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning – Phuket office hired Pattani Mahaphant Construction Partnership as a contractor for the artificial reefs project to rehabilitate ecosystems for tourism,” the statement explained.
“The agreement was signed on January 1, 2018. The agreement expires on January 26, 2019,” it added.
The DMCR was again involved in the project, to help “draft the scope and details of the work”, and to formally seek permission from the Phuket Fishery Office and the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command, based at Cape Panwa, in order to proceed with the work.
“Placement of the artificial reef platforms has been in accordance with the opinion of the people, whose feredback was gained through the public relations program and public hearings to hear the opinions of the public living in the area,” the stament noted.
“The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources pre-defined each area and provided the public with a clear coordinated position (of where the artificial reefs are to be installed) in order to contribute to the work and maintenance of artificial reefs in future projects,” it added.
“As well, the contractor must prepare a videotape in the process of placement within the sea, both on board the ship and under the sea,” the statement admitted.
However, that video evidence, or independent video recordings of the artificial reef blocks being deployed, have been banned by the court.