Panamanian-registered vessel nears Eastern Samar island despite COVID-19 restrictions

Stanley Buenafe Gajete

Posted at Apr 09 2020 04:34 PM | Updated as of Apr 09 2020 06:28 PM

Local residents provided these exclusive photos of a vessel that ventured near Homonhon island in Eastern Samar Wednesday.

Local residents provided these exclusive photos of a vessel that ventured near Homonhon island in Eastern Samar Wednesday.

MANILA - A Panamanian-registered cargo vessel ventured near Philippine shores twice this week, despite a general community quarantine imposed on the entire province of Eastern Samar to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Residents said the MV VW Peace, with crew from China and Myanmar, was supposed to collect some 7,000 wet metric tons of chromite ore from the mining operations of Techiron Resources Inc several miles in the seas off Homonhon island, Eastern Samar last Sunday, April 5. 

The vessel left the same day after an environment official barred its entry into Philippine shores following the call of local residents and officials.

The vessel, however, returned last Wednesday but failed to collect the chromite ore after a backhoe malfunctioned, residents said. 

The incident occurred nearly a month into the lockdown of Manila and Luzon, home to 50 million people, to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Residents fear the potential environmental and health risks that the ship might bring, said Carmi Macapagao of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc's Project Pagbangon.

“We have been strictly implementing no entry for non-residents even from other villages within the island, and yet a foreign cargo vessel, coming from a country where the virus originated, will be allowed to dock,” she said. 

Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone, in an executive order last March, banned "all entries of non-residents into the provincial coastlines, regardless of origin."