On Thursday, Rex Novabos, barangay captain of Logon, where Malapascua belongs, decided to ask the police and local Bantay Dagat members to check on the vessel after his office was barraged by complaints from residents who feared that the vessel might be siphoning off the island’s prized white sand.
The next day, officials of the Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Quarantine and Bureau of Immigration inspected the vessel, identified as MV Ming Yuan, a Hong Kong registered bulk carrier that came from Taipei in Taiwan.
Philippine Coast Guard Central Visayas operations officer Commander Weniel Azcuna said the skipper of the vessel told Coast Guard officials that they were waiting for their cargo to arrive in Isabel town, Leyte, which is about 36 nautical miles from Malapascua Island,” a diving destination which is also known for its pristine white-sand beach and clear waters.
Azcuna said the vessel’s crew failed to file a notice of arrival or inform the Coast Guard that they would be stopping by Malaspascua.
The passports and seaman’s books of the 24 crew members on board were also confiscated. Azcuna said he had yet to be informed about the names of the crew members since these were written in Chinese characters.
According to Novabos, the vessel docked in the waters between Carnasa and Malapascua about three weeks ago.
They suspected that it was a Chinese vessel due to the Chinese characters written on the ship.
He said he didn’t mind it at first because the vessel was nearer to Carnasa than Malapascua.
Carnasa and Malapascua, both island barangays, belong to Daanbantayan town, about 147 kilometers north of Cebu. But both islands can be reached by pump boat from Maya wharf in Daanbantayan.
But Novabos, who is Association of Barangay Councils president in Daanbantayan, said he received a call from Jose Moreno, Carnasa village chief, last week, asking him if he could request authorities to check on the vessel since it might be extracting white sands in two islands.
He alerted the police and Bantay Dagat on Thursday when his own constituents started raising fears about the presence of the vessel.
He said the Bantay Dagat members told him they saw the crew members of the Chinese vessel cleaning and painting the ship.