DENR holds Chinese ship, crew for lack of permit to dredge river
ILOILO CITY—A government team on Tuesday held a Chinese dredging ship and its 15 crew members in Aklan province for dredging a section of the Aklan River without permits.
Environment Undersecretary Arturo Valdez, accompanied by personnel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Army, served a cease and desist order on the operations of MV Zhong Hai 18 and STL Panay Resources Company Ltd. The vessel was docked about 300 meters from the mouth of the river.
Jim Sampulna, DENR regional executive director in Western Visayas, said the vessel’s crew and workers had no passports and working visas. The team also found three of six compartments of the vessel filled with sand and silt.
The ship and its crew were restrained from leaving the area. Valdez, head of the National Anti-Environmental Crime Task Force, said the DENR is coordinating with the Bureau of Immigration and Bureau of Customs for the issuance of a hold order against the vessel and in preparation for the filing of criminal cases against the crew members.
But Roger Vergara, consultant for environmental and engineering concerns of STL Panay Resources Company Ltd., said the ship and its crew members have all the necessary documents and permits to undertake the dredging project.
Vergara clarified that dredging activities have yet to start. He said the firm conducted a test operation because the ship was “inactive” for about two months.
He admitted the vessel gathered silt, sand and other materials, but these were not intended to be transported.
The company, a subsidiary of the Singapore-based Santarli Construction Ltd, entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Aklan provincial government in 2013 to undertake the three-year dredging project, at no cost to the government, as a flood mitigating measure, said Roger Esto, provincial planning and development coordinator and a member of the project’s multipartite monitoring team.
The company, according to the MOA, will pay the local government P5 per cubic meter of dredged materials that will be transported to Singapore.
Local officials blamed river siltation as a major cause of flooding in the capital Kalibo and neighboring towns during heavy rain.
The 72-kilometer Aklan River is the province’s main tributary. It passes through eight towns, including the capital Kalibo.
The project involves dredging an 8-km canal along the river in Numancia and Kalibo towns.
Sampulna said the company was told not to start dredging activities until a review of the project design was completed. He said it also failed to secure a mineral ore export permit (MOEP).
Vergara said the firm has not applied for an MOEP because it has no materials to transport and export.
Sampulna said the project has drawn opposition from residents, especially those living in Barangay Bakhaw Norte at the mouth of the river. —WITH A REPORT FROM JAYMEE T. GAMIL
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