Guiuan mayor demands immediate removal of stranded Chinese vessel 

TACLOBAN CITY – Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan on Thursday, April 27, demanded the removal of a Chinese vessel carrying 55,000 metric tons of nickel ore that ran aground in Barangay Sulangan, Guiuan, Eastern Samar.

Kwan lamented that the vessel's removal has not yet started nine days after the incident on April 18.

"I am really pushing for the immediate removal of that vessel because a typhoon might hit," she said.

Kwan said that the owner of Chinese-flagged carrier MV Zhe Hai 168 with 20 Chinese crew members onboard has appointed SMIT Salvage-Singapore to remove the ship.

The salvage company then ordered its local counterpart Malayan Towage and Salvage Corp. to do the job.

"I think they lack barges and landing craft, tanks (LCTs), which makes them inefficient since they have not started the removal process yet," Kwan said.

"I called up the shipping agent this morning asking them as to when will the salvors arrive. I also emailed the owner through them because we could not wait any longer. Otherwise, I will seek help from the national government," she added.

The plan is to transfer its load first to make the vessel float and become easier to tow.

The vessel ran aground approximately 2.7 nautical miles off the shoreline due to strong waves on April 18, which, according to the mayor, is at the mouth of the Pacific Ocean.

It was heading back to Caofeidian, China from Homonhon Island, also in Guiuan, when the incident happened.

The mayor said the crew is being monitored by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the  police.

"They cannot just go until they settle their obligations that will be looked into by the local government unit," she said.

No oil spill was reported  but the local chief executive said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources cannot ascertain the extent of damage on the coral reefs yet since the waves are huge and the current is strong.

The municipality of Guiuan is a marine protected area. Kwan said they have consulted their lawyer about the vessel's possible violations of environmental laws.