Residents worried about foreign-looking ships docking on Semirara island

Joyce Clavecillas, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 20 2020 09:43 PM

SEMIRARA ISLAND, Antique - While the enhanced community quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic is being strictly implemented in the province of Antique, vessels can be seen going to and from Semirara island in the municipality of Caluya in Antique. 

Photos and videos posted by Bong Sanchez, president of Save Antique Movement, show vessels in the waters just off Semirara island.

According to Sanchez, these vessels are Chinese-owned. The photos were taken from April 17 to April 19. 

Based on the information gathered by Sanchez from the ground, coal is being loaded into these vessels. 

"Nanawagan ang Save Antique Movement sa ating pamahalan na sana mahinto na itong pagpasok ng Shinese vessels sa Semirara at lalo na ma-lockdown o ma-stop ang operation ng Semirara Mining and Power Corporation para ma-contain and mitigate ang spread ng COVID-19 sa isla ng Semirara," Sanchez said in a video message sent to ABS-CBN News.

Sanchez also said that some residents are worried, especially since they believe these vessels come from China.

"Lalong nangangamba po ang mga residente ng Semirara sa patuloy na pagpasok ng mga Chinese vessels sa isla ng Semirara dahil alam nila na ang pinagmulan ng COVID-19 ay ang bansang Tsina," Sanchez added.

The station commander of Coast Guard Station in Antique, however, denied that the vessels are not from China. 

"Hindi naman sila Chinese vessel, mga ano sila mga vessel na kumukuha ng coal but not necessarily na Chinese vessel," said Commander Perlita Cinco in a phone interview. 

Based on her monitoring, some of the vessels came from Manila and Hong Kong .

As to the reason why the vessels continue to dock on the island despite the lockdown, Cinco said they are not privy of the details.

"Yan din po ang tanong na hindi namin masagot kasi yung Department of Energy yung in charge doon. Sila po yung nag-iissue ng permit sila din po ang nagche-check. Sila po ang may hawak ng pagdating at pag-alis ng barko," she said.

Sanchez appealed to the government to take action on the matter.

ABS-CBN News has reached out to Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao for an official statement, but she has not responded yet.

As of Monday, four cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Semirara Island.