Zambales execs to auction off dredge floaters
IBA, ZAMBALES—The kilometer-long dredge floaters found on the sea off Cabangan town last month may be worth millions of pesos, prompting the provincial government to auction them off, local officials said on Tuesday.
“There are people who are interested in buying the dredge floaters at an unreasonable price and it will not be favorable to the fishermen,” Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. told the Inquirer, referring to those who retrieved the objects.
“I told the fishermen not to rush into selling the floaters because there is a process that we have to follow. We will guide them and they will certainly benefit from it,” Ebdane said.
Zambales fishermen first saw the floaters, which local authorities earlier mistook for oil containment booms, some 5.5 kilometers (3 nautical miles) from the shoreline of Cabangan on July 24. The objects, which have Chinese markings, could have been washed away from the Scarborough Shoal, since they saw similar ones near that area.
The shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, is one of the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea. It is 230 km (124 nautical miles) west of Zambales.
The provincial government will supervise the auction of the floaters, which are believed to be parts of a dredging equipment. Ebdane said they could be worth a “sizable amount” or “millions of pesos.”
A new dredge floater assembly is worth P2.5 million, said Erwin de la Torre, a former top executive of a company that manufactures equipment similar to those found here.
Each assembly is composed of three floaters, a steel pipe and a rubber connector, De la Torre told the Inquirer by telephone on Wednesday. “On the low side, a single used assembly is easily worth P1.5 million.”
Fishermen said they towed a total of 39 dredge floaters toward Barangay San Agustin here. Each floater measures 2 meters in diameter.
“If there are 39 assemblies, then it’s a huge amount of money. This kind of floater is expensive, but [its value] would still depend on its condition,” De la Torre said.
On Monday, the provincial board on Monday passed a resolution authorizing Ebdane to take custody of and secure the floaters.
“We passed the resolution so fishermen will have peace of mind. The governor will have the floaters secured while we’re waiting for his decision on what to do with these,” Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II said.
“We’re considering all issues involved in the recovery of these floaters. If no one claims these then the fishermen will have have these by all means,” Lacbain said.
On Saturday, several fishermen, using tools or their bare hands, dismantled the assembly, and removed screws from the steel pipes. A backhoe was also seen moving a few dismantled pipes and floaters away from the shore.
Richard Limuardo, one of the fishermen who found the floaters, welcomed the provincial government’s move.
“We understand the concern of our local officials and we know that auctioning them off is the best move so we will all benefit from it,” Limuardo said.
Ebdane said he had ordered the floaters to be secured in Barangay San Agustin here while they prepare for the auction.
“We’re securing the floaters so the fishermen don’t have to worry about them. They can now go back to fishing while we still have good weather,” he said.
“If there’s no claimant, then we will move to auction it off. Although the floaters [can now be considered] owned by the fishermen [who found them], we will still have a bidding process,” he added.
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