THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Tuesday announced the arrest of nine individuals caught in the act of dumping radioactive waste in Cabangan, Zambales.
The suspects were identified as Huiza Hua and Wang Aimin, both Chinese, and Danny Bañes, Clieford Calingacion, Alberto Rendon, Edgardo Aquino, Eddie Singuelo Sr., Benjamin Bautista and Jesse Romano Sunga, all Filipinos.
According to NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin, the main vessel MV Dayang Century was Liberian-registered and was transporting 53,000 tons of phosphogypsum, a radioactive by-product of fertilizer production, from Gwangyang, South Korea.
“When this (phosphogypsum) is inhaled, this can cause serious sneezing, dizziness. When this is digested, this can cause upper-gastrointestinal disturbance. It can cause serious eye irritation and when the skin is exposed for a long time [to it], it can cause skin dehydration,” Lavin said as he described the effects from exposure to the toxic waste.
During a surveillance on November 16, the NBI-Environmental Crime Division (NBI-EnCD) saw a brown, mud-like substance being transferred from MV Dayang Century, anchored approximately 1.5 kilometers from the shoreline of Barangay Sto. Niño, Cabagan, to a landing craft tank.
NBI-EnCD chief Czar Eric Nuqui said the suspects had already dumped around 10 tons of toxic waste in Barangay Sto. Niño prior to the arrest.
“During the operation, we were able to establish the purpose of importation, it was purposely imported to the Philippines for dumping,” Nuqui added.
While the cargo was being unloaded, personnel of the NBI-EnCD and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) boarded the vessel, ordered a halt to the operation and arrested the suspects.
Indicated in a supposed permit to import was a white powder substance, supposedly the neutralized state of phosphogypsum that is environmentally safe.
The suspects were already presented for inquest proceedings before the Department of Justice for violation of Republic Act (RA) 6969, or the “Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1999,” and RA 9003, or the “Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.”
The MV Dayang Century and the toxic substance will be in the custody of the PCG in Zambales before the vessel is made to return to its point of origin.