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Residents protest as Chinese-bound ship allegedly resumed mining on Homonhon Island


Residents of Homonhon Island in Eastern Samar have protested against the alleged continued chromite ore mining of a China-bound ship even amid a community quarantine to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The MW VW Peace, carrying 13 Chinese and four Myanmar nationals, recently docked on the island to load 7,000 metric tons of chromite ore for export to China.

The Homonhon Environmental Rescuers Organization decried the arrival of the vessel.

“Matagal nang problema namin yung pagmimina dito sa Homonhon, matagal na matagal na iyan, mahigit na sa 30 years,” Daipen Montes, president of the organization, said in a Stand for Truth report by Atom Araullo on Thursday.

“‘Yung sa ngayon, kaya po talaga kami tumututol, hindi na lang po ito issue ng pro-mining at anti-mining people. It’s an issue sa health risk na pwedeng kaharapin ng mga taga-Homonhon doon sa pagdating ng Chinese vessel na iyon,” she explained.

The local government sent a resolution to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) manifesting opposition to the mineral ore loading of Tech-Iron Mining Corporation in Homonhon.

“Pakiusap sana nga namin, kahit man lang after noong quarantine period, pero hindi rin kami pinakinggan eh. Apparently there was undue haste doon sa loading," said Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone.

"Ang hinihingi ko lang naman ano eh, mag-quarantine ang crew ng 14 days pagdating sa Homonhon. After 14 days kung talagang clear sila, puwede silang mag-loading, provided may permit, may health protocols," he added.

Residents fear the spread of COVID-19 should there be an infected person on the ship. 

Evardone said the island has no health facility, and the community hospital is not operational. There is no sea ambulance either, he said.

The DENR suspended the loading of chromite ore on April 7, but lifted the order after four days.

Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said this was because the vessel received clearance from the Department of Health (DOH).

“We required them to submit all the pertinent documents coming from the DOH so nakapag-furnish naman sila sa amin noon. Nabigyan sila permit ng DOH. Nilagay rin namin sa mineral ore and export permit na hindi puwedeng magkaroon ng contact ‘yung nasa barko saka ‘yung nasa mainland,” he said.

“We in the DENR don’t see anything illegal on the operation... There is no special treatment on this operation,” Antiporda added.

"Before the lifting of the suspension, the good secretary seek for the guidance of the Inter-Agency Task Force for COVID-19 at ang sinabi ay export-related businesses should not be hampered dahil unang-una, 'yan na lang 'yung iilan sa mga source of income ng ating bansa. Hindi dapat na harangin pa o bigyan ng pahirap 'yan," he said.

Meanwhile, the Filipino workers who worked on the operation have now been placed under quarantine. —Julia Mari Ornedo/LDF/KG, GMA News