Chan: Shipbreaking halt order still in effect

ORDERED TO STOP. Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan ordered a stop to the ship-breaking operations of M/V Diamond Highway on January 31, 2024 amid complaints by residents in four sitios of the operations’ ill effects on their health.
ORDERED TO STOP. Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan ordered a stop to the ship-breaking operations of M/V Diamond Highway on January 31, 2024 amid complaints by residents in four sitios of the operations’ ill effects on their health.Photo from Lapu-Lapu City PIO

LAPU-LAPU City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan said the order stopping the shipbreaking operation of the m/v Diamond Highway in Sitio Proper Jansen, Barangay Punta Engaño is still in place.

This was the mayor’s clarification after receiving reports about the alleged ongoing dismantling of the ship.

Chan has also dispatched an investigation team to confirm the reports. Last January, the mayor issued a cease and desist order (CDO) to halt the shipbreaking operation being conducted by the Pilipinas Precious Metal Resources Inc. (PPMRI), after around 200 residents claimed to have suffered from skin rashes, throat irritation and cough caused by dust emissions from the shipbreaking activities.

Chan told reporters on Friday, March 8, 2024, that he was surprised when he learned about the alleged resumption of the shipbreaking operation.

He said the City had ordered PPMRI to remove all the debris left from their shipbreaking operation, but the company is prohibited from cutting any parts of the m/v Diamond Highway until the CDO is lifted.

Recommendation

Chan said they are awaiting the recommendation from the Lapu-Lapu City Health Office (LCHO) before the PPMRI can resume its shipbreaking activities, adding that the company must follow a list of requirements provided by the health office.

According to the mayor, one of the primary requirements is to ensure that the company has implemented strategies to prevent residents from suffering from skin and other types of diseases while carrying out the shipbreaking process.

“We are awaiting the City Health’s recommendation before resuming shipbreaking operations. Once approved, we can lift the CDO,” Chan said.

Prickly heat?

LCHO head Agnes Realiza, in a separate interview, said that they had discovered some of the affected residents might have been experiencing prickly heat due to the humid weather. Prickly heat, also known as heat rash or miliaria, is a skin condition that occurs when the body overheats and sweat gets trapped beneath the skin. This is common in hot and humid environments.

The LCHO has conducted its own probe. Its investigators believed that some residents of Punta Engaño could have been suffering from skin rashes caused by the hot weather.

Realiza said they have received fewer complaints from residents suffering from health issues.

Ointments have been provided to the Punta Engaño’s barangay health center to help residents with skin diseases. The LCHO personnel have also raised health awareness through information drives.

Realiza has advised residents, particularly children, to bathe more often and drink plenty of water.

Misinterpretation

During a press conference held on Friday, more than 300 residents from the four Sitios in Barangay Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City presented a petition expressing their dismay over the continued shipbreaking operation of m/v Diamond Highway.

Residents from Sitios Lupa, Colo, Proper Jansen and Mangal have reported experiencing skin rashes and other skin diseases since the shipbreaking works started producing fiber dust late last year.

Josie Hayashi, a barangay administrator and resident of Sitio Lupa, said during the press conference that the Barangay Council passed a resolution allow PPMRI to continue its shipbreaking operation despite the mayor’s CDO.

In a text message sent to SunStar Cebu on March 9, Barangay Punta Engaño Councilor Mark Escardo clarified that the resolution they had passed only requests the Lapu-Lapu City Government to conduct an investigation to determine whether the PPMRI should be allowed to resume the shipbreaking or cutting of the ship.

Escardo added that their goal is for PPMRI to complete its shipbreaking operations to permanently solve the problem. However, they are still awaiting Chan’s decision on the matter.

Separately, Chan said he had received information regarding the resolution, but the resolution is not the sole basis for PPMRI to continue its shipbreaking operations. It is an endorsement from the barangay to the City Government for approval, he said.

According to Chan, the company may have misinterpreted the resolution as clearance from the barangay to continue its operations. / HIC

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