Crew of dredging ship declogging Philippines river “wrongly arrested”

Crew members who were arrested at the weekend by Philippines federal authorities on vessels engaged in desilting and dredging operations at the mouth of the Naculcol River in the Philippines should not have been takeninto custody, the province’s governor Amor Deloso said on Wednesday.

In what looks like a minor stand-off between local and federal administrations in the Philippines, 10 crew members on three vessels used in the desilting and dredging operations were arrested and brought to Manila on Saturday, May 20th. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) identified the suspects as nine Chinese nationals and one Indonesian. The NBI said they were charged with theft of minerals under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

Zambales Governor Amor Deloso said he received reports that a group of armed personnel from the NBI, the Bureau of Immigration, the Department of Labour & Employment, the Department of Public Works & Highways and the Mines & Geosciences Bureau (MGB) raided and boarded the hauling vessel. Governor Deloso said that they should have co-ordinated with the provincial government before they stopped the desilting and dredging operation.

Three vessels were used in the operation: a dredging machine aboard a tugboat sucked up sand and discharged it onto a barge, which in turn transported it to a Panamax, which then would transport the sand to Singapore.

It would appear that the armed personnel arrested the crew because they thought they were stealing the sand, either not realizing that they were helping the local government and the DPWH to declog the rivers in a cost-efficient fashion, ot not caring, because the vessel did not have the requisite federal permission so to do. Governor Deloso gave Great River Valley Philippines Inc a Notice to Proceed permit on May 5th. He said that all pertinent papers are in order, including a permit from the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) issued on May 16th and signed by its manager Marieta Odicta. Deloso said that more than 6bn mt of pyroclastic materials were still clogging and silting major river systems of Zambales, particularly the Bucao, Maloma, Naculcol and Sto. Tomas Rivers.