Coast Guard seizes ship containing ‘radioactive’ substance in Zambales

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2019 07:34 PM | Updated as of Nov 24 2019 02:10 AM

The DENR identified the substance found in a foreign vessel in Cabangan town as phosphogypsum, which contains "naturally occurring radioactive elements." Handout

MANILA—Authorities on Friday arrested the officers of a ship unloading 53,000 metric tons of a substance considered radioactive in Cabangan town, Zambales.

The Philippine Coast Guard and the National Bureau of Investigation made the arrests at Cabangan Wharf.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources identified the substance as phosphogypsum, which contains "naturally occurring radioactive elements."

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, phosphogypsum is "a waste product from manufacturing fertilizer" that "emits radon, a radioactive gas."

"It also contains the radioactive elements uranium, thorium and radium," the US EPA website said.

The ship, a Liberian-flagged merchant vessel, came from Gwangyang Port, South Korea, said authorities, who added that the cargo was scheduled to be transported to San Mateo town, Rizal.

The shipmaster reportedly failed to show documents that would have permitted the operation, resulting in the crew's arrest for violations under the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990, and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

The ship and port personnel were brought to the NBI office in Manila for proper custody and further investigation.

The PCG said it found that two other merchant vessels, which were from different international shipping companies and carrying the same toxic cargo, arrived in Subic Port, Zambales between August and September 2018 but were denied entry and ordered to return to South Korea.