ZAMBALES, Philippines – A tugboat sank while barges loaded with 5,000 metric tons of nickel laterite ran aground in Zambales province at the height of Typhoon Lando (international codename: Koppu), threatening coral reefs in the area.
Six barges were contracted by a mining corporation to bring the materials from Santa Cruz town to a ship waiting in the open sea, but strong winds and big waves brought about by the typhoon pushed the barges toward Palauig, where they ran aground, before dawn of Sunday, October 18.
Ledy Suela, the pilot of M/T Joshmar III- SAMAR, the tugboat that pulled the barges, told Rappler on Monday, October 19, that the pilots proceeded to bring the barges to the sea despite the weather.
Pending confirmation, Rappler is withholding the name of the mining company that contracted the barges because pilots gave two different names.
Residents told Rappler that at least 6 large barges and two tugboats were initially seen near their shore. In the morning, one tugboat was able to pull the 5 barges to the sea, leaving one tugboat underwater and another barge grounded.
They alleged that the cargos had no permit from the concerned government agencies and were possibly going to be smuggled out of the country – a practice that residents, including barangay officials, had avoided interfering with for fear of their safety.
Mining continues in Zambales despite a ban imposed by the provincial government.
Residents from the towns of Masinloc, Candelaria, and Santa Cruz complain that thick mud from mining sites are destroying their farmlands and fishponds.
Meanwhile, residents in coastal barangays are concerned that the barges could destroy the coral reef in their areas, and would affect their daily catch as well as remove the communities’ protection from floods. – Rappler.com
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