The National Museum has asked the Roxas City government to declare a shipwreck area off the coast of Capiz’s capital a cultural and heritage site to help prevent the looting of artifacts, some dating to the 14th century.
Edwin dela Rosa, senior researcher of the museum’s cultural properties division, said his office had requested the city council through Mayor Alan Celino to pass a resolution or ordinance declaring the area in Barangay (village) Culasi a heritage site.
“This would ensure that the area will be protected because we have already received reports of continued lootings by divers in the area,” Dela Rosa told the Inquirer in a telephone interview yesterday.
Celino said the city government was willing to pass the ordinance to ensure that the area will be protected and to convert it into a tourist site.
A two-member team from the underwater section of the National Museum’s archaeology division inspected the shipwreck and gathered samples last week after receiving reports that centuries-old porcelain materials had already been recovered and sold to collectors.
The porcelain materials were most likely from the Ming (1368-1644) and Ching (1644-1911) dynasties, Dela Rosa said.
The ship that sank to a depth of 130 feet is believed to be a Chinese trade vessel or a Spanish galleon.
The National Museum learned of the shipwreck three weeks ago and that at least 70 pieces of porcelain materials believed to have been stashed from the wreckage were being sold to collectors.
Only fragments and other broken pieces were found in the surface, Dela Rosa said. The looting of archaeological materials is a criminal offense under Republic Act No. 10006 or the National Cultural Heritage Act.
Coast Guard personnel have been guarding the area since last week, said Bryan Argos, curator of the Roxas museum.