Crew of dredging ship declogging Zambales river arrested

Randy Datu

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Crew of dredging ship declogging Zambales river arrested
The crew members were engaged in desilting and dredging operations at the mouth of the Naculcol River. The endeavor aims to declog the river.

ZAMBALES, Philippines (UPDATED) – Ten crew members on vessels used in the desilting and dredging operations at the mouth of Naculcol River were arrested and brought to Manila on Saturday, May 20, without any charges filed against them as the basis of arrest.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) identified the suspects as Chinese nationals Zhining Tang, Liao Nantu, Yichang Lin, Zhibin Xu, Jingwei Chen, Hongming Zhou, Wen Haihu, Yong Wang, and Tang Peilong, and Afrizon Hary, an Indonesian.

According to the NBI, they are facing charges for violation of Section 103 (theft of minerals) under Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

Zambales Governor Amor Deloso said he received reports that a group of armed personnel from the NBI, the Bureau of Immigration (BI), the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) raided and boarded the hauling vessel while anchored at Naculcol River, located in the boundaries of San Felipe and San Narciso, Zambales.

Three vessels were used in the operations: A dredging machine aboard a tugboat that sucks sand and discharges it onto a second ship, a barge that transports the loaded sand onto a bigger (Panamax-size) vessel. The Panamax-size vessel would then transport the sand to Singapore.

After inspecting vessels, the armed personnel arrested the crew members who were manning them, bringing them immediately to Manila.

Deloso added the crew members were arrested like criminals without any charges filed against them, which he said violated the crew’s human rights.

He is seeking assistance from the national government to provide technical assistance to these people. They were helping the local government and the DPWH to declog the rivers without spending millions of pesos from government funds.

Deloso explained that the foreigners were supervising dredging operation at the mouth of Naculcol River collecting sand and lahar deposits (pyroclastic materials) discharged by Mount Pinatubo since its eruption in 1991.

Deloso added more than 6 billion metric tons of pyroclastic materials were still clogging and silting major river systems of Zambales, particularly the Bucao, Maloma, Naculcol and Sto. Tomas Rivers. They are now higher than the residential ground levels of the communities nearby.

ARRESTS. Three crew members of the ships undergoing declogging operations in Naculcol River are arrested. Photo by Randy Datu/Rappler

In 2009, during flash flooding occuring in Botolan at the onset of Typhoon Frank, an entire barangay was almost wiped out due to a heavy flow of water the Bucao River could not contain because of the overflow of lahar.

To prevent imminent danger and to avoid the repeat of what happened in Botolan, Deloso looked for ways to fast-track the dredging, declogging, and desilting of all the lahar-clogged rivers in Zambales.

“I will fight for my people and I will do all possible ways to remove those lahar and sand in our rivers that are killing our people and destroying our province every time typhoon visits our province,” he said.

One of the methods allowed under the law, according to the governor, is through dredging where the dredging vessel positions itself in the river mouth and suck the lahar sand wholesale and sold them locally or overseas to compensate the dredging company for its operation.

In the case of the Naculcol River dredging operation, the sand is being shipped to Singapore, where it is used for a reclamation project.

“Not only does this kind of operation save (the) lives and properties of the residents of Zambales, but (it) also increases the collection of taxes from payment of the sand and finally solves the decades old problem left to the province by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo,” the governor said.

Deloso also is appealing to the national government agencies that issue clearances to streamline their respective processing procedures. The procedures already discouraged 38 foreign investors that were supposed to establish operations in the province.

According to Deloso, the proverbial long processing period spent in acquiring the required clearances, especially the National Clearances, caused foreign investors to move to other countries. –

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