Environment advocates worry over entry of Chinese vessels on Semirara Island
ILOILO CITY –– Environmental advocates have raised concern over the continued entry of Chinese vessels in the waters of Semirara Island in Antique even after COVID-19 quarantine measures were implemented.
Bong Sanchez, president of the Save Antique Movement, said three Chinese vessels had arrived in Semirara since April 11 after enhanced quarantine measures were implemented in Antique province.
He said one vessel left on April 17 and another on April 20.
“People including employees of the mining company are concerned about the presence of Chinese crew members but they are afraid to speak out for fear of earning the ire of the mining company,” Sanchez told the INQUIRER.
But the Semirara Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC) said docking and operation of foreign vessels on Semirara Island were under government COVID-19 protocols and in close coordination with all concerned government agencies.
“Cargo loading was also done under our strict COVID-19 protocols and relevant guidelines set by the national government and local government units. To limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission, we complied with the stringent regulations of the Bureau of Quarantine, Bureau of Immigration, and Bureau of Customs,” the company said in a statement sent to the Inquirer.
It said it has prohibited the disembarking of vessel crewmembers since February, in compliance with the “no disembarkation” policy enforced by Caluya town, which includes the three villages of the 5,500-hectare island.
All those involved in the operations follow health guidelines, including social distancing, wearing masks, and hazardous material suits.
Four workers of the company have been tested positive for the disease.
Antique Rep. Loren Legarda was pushing for a “full-blown” investigation on the entry of Chinese vessels and the mining operations in Semirara.
Legarda said the export of coal to China is not essential at this time.
“So why the need for Chinese vessels? This important question begs for an answer. The welfare of my people is paramount,” Legarda said.
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