SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines—The government has been retrieving artifacts that were looted from a shipwreck in Subic Bay, hoping to protect these irreplaceable items from a sunken ship near Grande Island in March.
The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), in a statement on Saturday, said divers from the agency’s Law Enforcement Department (LED) recovered a barnacle-wrapped ship anchor, measuring about 7 feet high and 3 feet by 5 inches wide, in the waters off Morong town, Bataan province.
Chief Insp. Jason Villamater, commander of Philippine National Police Special Action Battalion in Bataan, said the LED sought a joint operation to recover relics from a sunken Spanish galleon in Subic Bay.
He said the PNP and LED teams on May 14 went to the site in Barangay Mabayo in Morong to salvage the relics, following reports of looting near Grande Island.
Agents from the National Bureau of Investigation and the police’s regional maritime unit also scoured the area due to reports that pieces of scrap metal had been stolen from a sunken ship.
On March 20, police arrested five men picking through the shipwreck near Grande Island. The suspects, who are facing theft charges, were released after posting bail.
LED officials said the NBI’s Olongapo City office had assumed jurisdiction over the case and would pursue its own retrieval operation to recover the looted artifacts.
The anchor was found around 200 meters from the shoreline of Barangay (village) Mabayo.
“No other artifact was recovered from the area, as residents [in Barangay Mabayo] said the other [looted] items were hidden on the night before the [government] operation was conducted,” the SBMA statement said.
SBMA officials said they would seek the help of artifact experts from the government to establish the historical value of the recovered anchor.
The seabed of Subic Bay keeps a number of historical shipwrecks, which also serve as recreational dive sites. The SBMA said the ships El Capitan, USS New York, Oryoku Maru and Seian Maru, and a tank landing ship are among the wreckage in Subic Bay.—Allan Macatuno