By: RACHEL V. ARNAIZ
CATARMAN, Northern Samar- A task force was created involving several government entities which aims to conduct an investigation on a Chinese registered cargo vessel that drifted in the territorial waters of Pambujan, this province, on January 2.
The ‘Task Force Jin Ming No.16’, headed by Captain Gregorio Adel of the Philippine Coast Guard, was created to make a more systematized and faster investigation on the ship and its crew, Commander Lawrence Roque, information officer and spokesperson of the task force, told Leyte Samar Daily Express.
And among the issues that the task force will look into is why the said cargo vessel, which measures 65 meters in length and 12 meters in width, was using a Philippine flag, Roque said.
“It is part of the investigation to be looked upon. Kasi it’s a sign that they want to mislead us. It’s part of our investigation,” he said.
It was learned that the ill-fated cargo vessel is a Chinese-registered cargo vessel and owned by one Chen Zi Wen, a Taiwanese.
But an official of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines (TECO) denied that such cargo vessel exists on their database.
The cargo vessel made a distress call on Jan.2 after it was pummeled by heavy rains and strong winds spawned by tropical storm ‘Agaton.’
It was carrying nine crew members and said to be loaded with 1,700 cartoons of liquor with Chinese characters and blue-colored fish crates.
On January 3, a cocaine valued at P125 million was discovered in Matnog, Sorsogon which prompted speculation that the contraband may have come from the said sunken vessel.
However, Rommel Tepace, information officer of the municipal government of Pambujan, dismissed it saying that no cocaine was found inside the Ji Ming No.16.
“That’s not true, wala pang lumabas na ganyang information from the investigating team. The investigation is still ongoing,” Tepace said.
He also said that no oil spill occurred since the cargo vessel made its emergency docking off the waters 300 meters from the town proper of Pambujan.
Commander Roque said that the inspection that they have done in the past days only involved ocular inspection on the safety of the vessel and environmental protection concerns.
They have also secured a copy of the vessel’s navigation map.
On Saturday, January 6, a floating asset of the Philippine Coast Guard arrived and started extracting oil from the ship.
The task force, created last January 8 during a meeting at the regional office of the Office of Civil Defense, has four committees, composed each of a chairman, an information officer, and members from different government agencies.
These four committees are the committee on salvage headed by Roque; security chaired by S/Supt. Felix Diloy, Northern Samar police provincial director; investigation chaired by Supt. Carlito Abriz and welfare headed by Rei Josiah Echano, provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer of Northern Samar.