Bumaligtad! DENR lifts suspension, allows Chinese-manned vessel to load minerals in E. Samar despite lockdown

Despite the suspension of mining operations in Eastern Samar due to imposed lockdown during the coronavirus outbreak, foreign mining companies still managed to operate in Region 8.

MV VW Peace, with 13 Chinese and 4 Myanmar nationals on board, was supposed to load 7,000 metric tons of chromite ore worth more than P 61 million before it was barred by Guiuan town from docking at the historic island where Ferdinand Magellan landed 499 years ago.

Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone initially have requested from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources when he asked Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to stop a Chinese ship docked in Homonhon Island from loading up on mineral ores last week.

Evardone justified  “humanitarian considerations to protect the health and safety” of the island’s residents and thought the DENR chief have granted their request.

But Cimatu turncoat a few days later, and allowed Chinese miners to come over and ship the chromite haul.

DENR has lifted Mineral Ore Export Permit (MOEP) of Techiron Resources Inc. after the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) allowed continued operations of export-related industries amid the enhanced community quarantine.

LGU officials and Residents of Eastern Samar heavily opposed the operation of foreign miners, in fact, this MV VW Peace was turned away a few days ago by residents and alerted local officials of its presence, prompting 8 barangay captains to sign a resolution banning the entry of the vessel into the island.

The incident was first raised by the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc, a network of faith based non-governmental organizations. Citing residents expressing concern over the vessel’s activity after it was first spotted on Saturday, April 4 and again on Monday, April 6.

Residents fear the potential environmental and health risks that these foreign vessels might bring to the island, according to Carmi Macapagao of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc's Project Pagbangon.

“We have been strictly implementing no entry for non-residents even from other villages within the island, and yet a foreign cargo vessel, coming from a country where the virus originated, will be allowed to dock,” Macapagao said.

Independent media group FYT reported that the DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Region 8 has lifted on April 11 the suspension of MOEP of Techiron issued on March 31.

The decision left Homonhon, a fishing community of about 8,000 people, shocked and helpless.

"Nakakadismaya ang desisyon," Father Christian Ofilan of the island's St. John Baptist Parish said.
"We thought na ipagtatanggol kami ng gobyerno, pero parang mas nangunguna ang interes ng foreign nationals." he added.

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