Antique diocese wants Chinese mining ships out of Semirara amid pandemic

Antique diocese wants Chinese mining ships out of Semirara amid pandemic

Chinese vessels are seen at the port of Semirara Island, the coalmine reservation in Caluya town, Antique province. COURTESY OF BONG SANCHEZ

By CBCP News

April 25, 2020

Manila, Philippines

Catholic authorities in Antique urged the government to stop coal mining and shipment operations on Semirara Island as the province grapple with coronavirus cases.

Fr. Edione Febrero, Diocesan Social Action Director, said that such operations during pandemic “are unarguably contrary to human life and safety.”

The appeal was made on April 25 in a letter, endorsed by Bishop Marvyn Maceda, to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.

The diocese expressed concern over the presence of foreign vessels on the island off Caluya town, where four people have tested positive for Covid-19. Five other cases have been reported in the province’s town of Pandam.

“Said operations are a breach in the COVID 19 enhanced community quarantine protocol being implemented in the country and in Antique,” Fr. Febrero said.

The priest said authorities must order the vessels to return to their ports of origin until the pandemic is over “and all confirmed cases are closed”.

The diocese stressed the need to prevent more cases in the province where health facilities are limited “and has almost nil testing capacity”.

“National patterns show that cases could rise without abatement despite the ECQ (ehananced community quarantine) if no extra precautions are implemented to prevent further infection of the community,” Fr. Febrero said.

A lawmaker has earlier called for a “full-blown” investigation into the entry of “Chinese vessels” on the island for possible violations of health protocols amid the pandemic.

Antique Rep. Loren Legarda said that the island must be on “lockdown” to protect its residents, as she asked Semirara Mining and Power Corp. “to answer all these concerns”.

“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?” Legarda said in one of her tweets on April 19.