Chinese cargo ship seized in Cebu
Authorities took custody yesterday of 24 Chinese crewmen after their cargo ship was seized while anchored near a marine sanctuary in Cebu for the past 33 days, allegedly without informing the government of their arrival in the country.
Commodore William Melad, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Central Visayas district commander, said that the 19,998-gross ton M/V Ming Yuan, a Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier built in 2007, has been staying in the country since May 19 but failed to notify the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Melad admitted that it took some time before the Chinese crew cooperated with authorities because it did not immediately allow the PCG personnel, accompanied by officers from the BI, BOC and the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), to board their ship yesterday morning.
"They would not allow us to board. Normally, they would lower the accommodation ladder. But we insisted, so finally they allowed us to board the ship. We properly identified ourselves on radio that we are from the Philippine Coast Guard and we have the BOC and BI with us. Maybe there was just a miscommunication at the beginning of the discussion," Melad added.
It took them about two hours to convince the foreigners to allow them to enter the vessel and another two hours of ship inspection before they were told to transfer to another site where they would be better monitored by the PCG.
He explained that the Ming Yuan was a commercial vessel and normally when they enter the country they should have a notice of arrival to the corresponding agencies such as the BOC, BI and the PPA.
The problem is there was no notice of arrival and the ship has been here since May 19, he said.
The Chinese were in the area between Malapascua Island and Carnasa Island.
The ship was anchored in the area, a famous beach area and dive spot located near a marine sanctuary.
Melad admitted that this was the second time that they boarded the ship.
Last week, they entered the ship's premises but it was for port state control purposes where they only checked the seaworthiness of the vessel. The ship passed the inspection.
But at past 4 a.m. yesterday, the officers from the four different government agencies again approached the vessel anchored some 5.3 nautical miles off Malapascua Island.
"So (at 6 a.m.), we found out that they had no notice of arrival so definitely there is a violation here. The Bureau of Immigration confiscated their passports and seaman's book because they did not ask permission to enter (the country)," the PCG official said.
The Chinese nationals are not allowed to leave their ship.
Melad also believed that the ship should not be staying near Malapascua so the PCG escorted them to another anchorage area for foreign vessels specified by the PPA, which is located in the northern part of Cebu where there is a PCG detachment that could guard the Chinese ship.
The PCG also learned that the Chinese ship plans to go to Leyte where the vessel owner was reportedly looking for clients and cargo to transport.
When they checked the ship, it appeared that they had not yet found any client since the cargo hold was empty.
He also wondered why the vessel was anchored in Cebu, which was in Region 7, when their intended client was in Region 8.
The latest seizure of the Chinese ship came at a time when the Philippines and China are embroiled in a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
Last April, 12 Chinese crewmembers were ordered arrested and detained after their vessel ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea.
PCG Cebu commander Weniel Azcuna said on the first week of June, local fishermen and officials of Malapascua reported to the PCG the arrival of the foreign cargo vessel.
Azcuna said that the captain of the Ming Yuan informed the PCG that the vessel came from Taipei, Taiwan before the ship stopped in Malapascua en route to Isabel, Leyte.
Azcuna said the ship captain claimed that the Ming Yuan was supposed to pick up cargo in Leyte but since it was not yet ready, the crew chose to temporarily stay in Malapascua.
Azcuna said that the owner of the vessel would have to pay fines to the BI and customs bureau for not notifying the agency of their presence.
He clarified that the PCG deals more with ship safety.
"It's a newly built ship, so when we conducted the inspection, there was no violation detainable to the coast guard," said Azcuna.
The PCG vessel 3502 escorted the Ming Yuan yesterday to the port in Hagnaya, Cebu.
Meanwhile, in a separate inspection by local executives, Logon barangay chairman Rex Novabos, Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) president, said he has sent the Bantay Dagat Team as well as policemen to the area to check on the activities of the Chinese ship.
Novabos said they checked if the ship has a hose used to extract sand after some residents reported that the vessel could be extracting sand from coastal areas.
"This is mostly the activity of most stranded ships in our island, which is to get white sand and transport it to another beach. But due to language barrier, we were not able to talk to the crew," he said.
Novabos said the team reported that there was no hose and they did not find any sand on board while crewmembers were painting the vessel floor. –
With Jaime Laude, Marigold Lebumfacil/Freeman
With report from philSTAR