MANILA (UPDATE 2) - A dredging vessel spotted off the coast of Lobo, Batangas has left the area, authorities said Friday, a week after residents first saw the ship.
The M/V Emerald left around 7:30 a.m. and reportedly sailed off to the Batangas Pier where it is expected to dock for a few days, Lobo Mayor Jurly Manalo said in an interview on DZMM.
"Inuutusan ko na noong pang Friday [na paalisin]. Sabi ko, 'Wala kayong business permit sa akin kaya hindi kayo puwede mag-dredge dito,'" he said.
(I have ordered the ship to leave since Friday last week. I told them that they did not obtain a business permit so they cannot dredge here.)
Capt. Armand Balilo, Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson, said the vessel's flag of convenience is Sierra Leone but has its home base in Malaysia. He said the ship has both Chinese and Indonesian crew members.
"Maaaring tawagin na Chinese dredging vessel kung 'yung contractor niya ay 'yun talaga 'yung operations," Balilo said without confirming the nationality of the vessel's contractor.
The M/V Emerald initially wanted to dredge sand from the area to bring it to other countries, Manalo said. The local government approved a memorandum of agreement with the ship, but that does not mean that their operations are already approved, the mayor said.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier said it suspended the vessel's dredging operations for failing to secure clearance from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
"Imposible na walang masisira dahil kami ay tapat ng Verde Passage," Manalo said, referring to the rich body of water separating mainland Luzon and Mindoro.
(It is impossible for them not to destroy anything because our town is right in front of the Verde Passage.)
"Kahit na ito buhanginan may corals din. Iyon ay pinagtataguan din ng mga isda, pinanganganakan," he said.
(Even if the area is mostly sand, there are still corals here. Fish lay their eggs there.)
The Philippine Coast Guard will deploy divers to Lobo on Saturday to check if the M/V Emerald damaged natural resources.
"Para mawala 'yung mga pangamba namin at pangamba ng mg tao, minabuti naming magpa-dive tomorrow para ma-check talaga kung mayroon silang mga nasira. Kung may nasira dapat papanagutin," Balilo said.
(To ease our worries and the worries of the public, we will send divers to the site tomorrow to check if there were damages. If there are damages, they would have to be liable.)