MARITIME SECURITY. The Philippine Coast Guard reported that it has established a unit at the historic island of Homonhon, Guiuan town in Eastern Samar amid report of presence of Chinese vessel on the historic island.(PCG)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has established a station on Homonhon Island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar, to monitor the movements of Chinese vessels docking on the historic island.

Commander Elgene Gregorio, the acting deputy commander of PCG-Eastern Visayas, clarified that the Chinese vessels seen in the waters of Homonhon are there to collect minerals extracted from the island.

At least four mining companies operate on the island, either owned or affiliated with Chinese companies, with the minerals being transported to China, the primary market.
These companies include Emir Mineral Resources, Techiron Resources Inc., Global Min-Met Resources, and Verum Terra Geoscience Inc., which extract chromite and nickel.

Gregorio stated that the decision to establish a unit on the island, where Ferdinand Magellan landed in 1521, is part of their mandate to monitor foreign vessels entering Philippine waters.

“We are doing our best to safeguard our territorial waters and ensure that no foreign vessel will enter our area to conduct any illegal activities,” Gregorio said on Tuesday (June 4) on the sidelines of the media conference initiated by the regional office of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

A unit was established on the island on May 20 of this year as part of this mandate, he added.

“We will ensure that they will not engage in any illegal activities. Our course of action is to put up a unit on Homonhon to help us monitor their activities and ensure compliance with the law,” Gregorio emphasized.

Gregorio acknowledged that the presence of Chinese vessels, mostly manned by Chinese nationals, has raised concerns among villagers. These foreign nationals are now allowed to disembark from their vessels.

However, he could not specify the current number of Chinese vessels docked in the waters of Homonhon.

The four mining companies hold mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA) covering more than 1,800 hectares of the 10,929 hectares total land area of the island.

A Task Force Homonhon was created following a suggestion by Rep. Jude Acidre of the Tingog party-list group during a hearing called by 4Ps party-list Rep. and Minority Floor Leader Marcelino Libanan in the Lower House.

The hearing was attended by Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, some undersecretaries and regional officials of the agency and its attached bureaus, Guiuan Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan, a representative from the Diocese of Borongan, and representatives of mining companies.

Acidre suggested the creation of the task force to sustain the monitoring of mining companies’ commitments.

Sec.Loyzaga and Rep. Libanan agreed to the suggestion, with the environment official designating Regional Executive Director Lormelyn Claudio as the point person for the task force.