Legarda questions entry of Chinese vessels in Antique amid lockdown

Joyce Ann Clavecillas, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 23 2020 01:15 AM

SAN JOSE, Antique - Antique Rep. Loren Legarda on Wednesday said Semirara Mining and Power Corporation should shed light on alleged Chinese vessels coming to Semirara Island in Caluya, Antique despite the lockdown in place. 

In a statement to ABS-CBN News, Legarda said she learned that since March 5, there had already been 7 vessels which were inspected by the Bureau of Quarantine, Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Immigration in Semirara Island. 

As early as January, she said she has already recommended to temporarily disallow the entry of Chinese vessels in Antique. 

"The export of coal from Semirara to the Chinese at this time, that's not an essential industry. So why the need for Chinese vessels? This important question begs for an answer. The welfare of my people is paramount," Legarda said.

The former senator is also questioning the legal basis of the exportation of coal during this time.

"I cannot reassure my constituents that all measures taken are sufficient until I have all the information I need from the company. Even the local governments are not clear on the protocols they follow. Both the national government and provincial government directives did not exempt coal exports from the restrictions. SMPC needs to show their legal basis for the continuation of these exports to show they are not in violation of these restrictions," she said.

Legarda said she has been reaching out to the officials of SMPC to seek an explanation. 

Earlier this week, Save Antique Movement released photos and video footage on social media showing ships it claimed to be Chinese vessels docking in the port of Semirara Island.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard station in Antique made a clarification on the statement of Station Commander Perlita Cinco which was published in ABS-CBN News on April 20.

“Just want to clarify my statement, published by ABS-CBN Iloilo last April 20, 2020. Hindi po ako nagbigay ng permiso na irecord yung statement ko. At hindi po ito considered official. At ang sinabi ko po na hindi naman po sila Chinese vessel, ibig ko pong sabihin doon na hindi lahat ng barko dumadaong sa Semirara ay China ang Port of Registry and I am not referring din po doon sa vessel na naka dock sa Semirara last April 17-19, 2020 po,” Cinco said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

Four cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Semirara Island.