The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) stopped a 50-ton Chinese boat from unauthorized dredging of shallow parts of the Aklan River.
Some 60 operatives from various law enforcement agencies on Tuesday swooped down on the boat MV Zhong Hai 18 which was contracted by STL Panay Resources Co. Ltd. (STLPRCL) for the dredging operation.
The DENR sought the assistance of law enforcement agencies to implement the cease and desist order (CDO) issued by the DENR on January 26 against the dredging project and a directive from DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.
Undersecretary Arturo Valdez said the project contractor failed to secure permits from the DENR and the multi-sectoral monitoring and validation team created by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Aklan to ensure the safety of the dredging operations.
Valdez, who is head of the National Anti-Environmental Crime Task Force (NAECTF) immediately ordered the NAECTF to link up with Aklan DENR officials upon learning of the dredging activities through a letter sent by Kalibo town Mayor William Lachica.
He noted that around 1,200 cubic meters of sand were discovered inside two of the boat’s six compartments during a surprise inspection on January 23.
It was also learned that the boat has been anchored off Barangay Bakhaw Norte in Kalibo since November last year.
The dredging project, which is an offshoot of the massive flooding caused by Typhoon “Frank” in 2008, is strongly opposed by the town’s residents saying it might result in further erosion of the riverbank.
Valdez clarified that the monitoring team and the DENR did not give STLPRCL the go signal to proceed with dredging operations because it has yet to comply with the requirements set by the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Part of these requirements was for STLPRCL to secure clearances from the monitoring team and concerned local DENR offices.
Combined operatives from the Philippine Army, Philippine Coast Guard and the National Bureau of Investigation joined the DENR in implementing the order against the operation and also found 15 undocumented Chinese inside the boat conducting the dredging operation.
“None of the Chinese nationals we found on board the ship were able to present their passports, nor were they able to present a mineral ore transport permit for the ship’s cargo,” Valdez said.
He said that the DENR has already coordinated with the Bureau of Immigration regarding the Chinese, as well as the Bureau of Customs for the issuance of a hold-departure order against the vessel.
The DENR official said his team does not rule out the possibility that the ship is engaged in black sand mining, noting that the SPRCL has offered to dredge the river in exchange for buying the materials which will be taken out.