Vigilant Homonhon Islanders, stops loading of Techiron vessel from China

Quezon City, Philippines – Concerned residents of Homonhon Island in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, one of the many islands hit by Typhoon Yolanda, through their barangay captains, blocked-off the entry of a vessel from China.  

The vessel named MV “VW Peace”, flying a Panamanian Flag, manned by Chinese and Myanmar crew is reported to have come from Macau but temporarily docked in Davao for a few days and is supposed to proceed to Cantilado Pier in Homonhon Island based on documents collected. With this, the island’s eight (8) barangay captains immediately issued a joint resolution banning entry of MV “VW Peace” to Homonhon Island.

According to Yoly Esguerra, National Coordinator of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), “the resolution is a good sign that even in a time of pandemic, the eight (8) barangay leaders, the Municipal Government of Guiuan, and the Provincial Government of Eastern Samar have worked together in decisively weighing the importance of their community-members’ health rights over mining. That the people are united in asserting their health rights sends a flicker of hope amidst the sea of chaos and loss for many in Luzon are troubled by COVID-19 pandemic, they are all united in asserting their health rights.”

Gov. Ben Evardone communicated the said issue to USec. Mitch Cuna of to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and said that the docking of the ship carrying foreign crew and transporting of ore, will violate the both the national and prevailing Provincial Government’s Executive Order on enhanced community quarantine that prohibits mass gatherings. Meanwhile, Mayor Annaliz Gonzales-Kwan mobilized the local PNP and Philippine Coast Guard to bar the foreign vessel from docking into the island.

Fr. Christian Ofilan, Priest at St. John the Baptist Parish in Homonhon Island earlier raised concern over the said vessel and appealed to concerned government officials not to allow the loading of mine ores in the island for the sake of “common good, our health” he said.    

“The Joint Baranggay Resolution dated 6 March 2020 bans the entry of strangers into the island, parallel to the National Government’s effort to fight-off the spread of COVID-19”, said Carmi Macapagao, a resident of Homonhon Island and field officer of PMPI’s Project Pagbangon.  She added, “Homonhonanons are grateful that Hon. Ben Evardone prioritized our health over a mining corporation and made efforts to notify DENR regarding this development.    

Mr. Wenifredo O. Gapate Jr. from Brgy. Pagbabangnan, is one the signatories of the Barangay Joint Resolution, said, “The mining companies, out of greed to gain more profit acts like a thief in the night, attacking the people while sleeping. But they made the wrong move, despite many concerns due to the broadening of COVID-19 infection, we are forever vigilant. He added, “We will continue to monitor movement of these mining companies. We intend to boot them out of the island because they are destroying our home and are robbing our children of their future.”

Homonhon Island in Guiuan, Eastern Samar is historical site tied to Magellan’s first landing in the Philippines back in 1521 and home to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red-listed and Critically Endangered Philippine Cockatoo.

Homonhon Island along with its neighbor Manicani Island and the entire Province of Eastern Samar are covered by Provincial Ordinance No. 09, series of 2005 that prohibits large-scale mining in the entire Eastern Samar Province.

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