Batangas town mayor drives away foreign vessel despite DENR permits

BATANGAS, Philippines – A citizen complaint prompted the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to investigate sand extraction activities in Lobo, Batangas along the Lobo River. The activities prompted Lobo town Mayor Gaudioso R. Manalo to ask the Philippine Coast Guard to order a vessel of Seagate Engineering and Buildsystems, the MV Emerald, to leave.

Last Friday, March 29, barangay officials reported dredging activities of a reported Chinese vessel in Lobo, Batangas, with 9 Chinese crewmen onboard.

Manalo clarified the vessel was not from China but originated from Africa. He asked the PCG to order Seagate to leave, and he is hoping they depart Lobo waters as soon as the necessary documentation has been processed.

Said Manalo, "May contract daw sila sa LGU noong 2008 pero ngayon lang sila dumating. May dala silang ECC. Sabi ko wala naman kaming na-approve na dredging at bakit barko?,” (They had a contract with the LGU from 2008 but they only arrived now. They brought an ECC (environmental compliance certificate). I said we didn't approve any dredging, and why a ship?)

Manalo added they have an ongoing contract with another company, FS Suntan, that has secured the necessary permits. Allowing Seagate to operate will conflict with this. He is also worried about the negative effects dredging will have on their natural resources.

“Ang Lobo ay approved ng DOT (Department of Tourism) na agro-ecotourism destination, masisira ang corals namin. At ang Verde Island passage ay masisisra din,” Manalo said. (Lobo is approved by the DOT as an agro-ecotourism destination. The corals will be destroyed, along with Verde Island passage.)

MV EMERALD. Photos courtesy of PCG Batangas

MV EMERALD.

Photos courtesy of PCG Batangas

Ceasing dredging activities

The Deparment of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) confirmed on Wednesday, April 3, that an extraction activity in Lobo River in Batangas secured an ECC.

Three ECCs were issued last July 6, 2018 to Seagate Engineering and Buildsystems for desilting, dredging, and remediation of the Lobo River Estuary Foreshore, Lobo River Basin Periphery, and in Barangays Olo-olo, Poblacion, Tayuman, Mabilog na Bundok, and Nagtaluntong.

The ECC was from an online application and had the condition that all other permits needed were to be submitted within 60 days. However, the MGB never issued an ore transport permit nor an export permit for the soil; therefore, it would be illegal to take the dredged material out of the country.

“MGB will issue a Cease and Desist Order against Seagate Engineering and Buildsystems to ensure that no dredging/siphoning activities will be conducted without necessary permits. The Philippine Coast Guard is also requested to conduct constant monitoring. The effectivity of the ECCs are premised on the subsequent compliances with other conditions,” said DENR CALABARZON Regional Executive Director Maria Paz Luna.

Luna has also ordered a review of all ECCs in Region 4A as to their subsequent compliance with conditions and to notify noncompliant holders of their deadlines, after which such noncompliance will render the ECC invalid.

The Lobo river drains to Verde Island Passage which owes its diversity to the rivers that feed it. It has been declared the “Center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity in the world” by Dr. Kent Carpenter, an IUCN Global Marine Species Assessment Coordinator. – Rappler.com