Punta Engaño residents: Stop health risks!

Local News Official
Local News OfficialSunStar File Photo

OVER 300 residents from four sitios in Barangay Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City have filed a petition against the continued shipwrecking operation of m/v Diamond Highway in Sitio Proper Jansen despite a cease and desist order (CDO) issued by the Lapu-Lapu City Government last January 2024.

In a press conference at the Arterra Hotel in Punta Engaño on Friday, March 8, 2024, the residents claimed the shipbreaking operations have continued after the Barangay Council allegedly passed a resolution to allow it.

One resident, Mylene (not her real name), said they were not consulted by the barangay before passing the resolution.

The residents urged Mayor Junard Chan to stop the work conducted on the ship as the operation still poses health problems to their children and the elderly.

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

In December 2023, some individuals reported having respiratory issues such as cough and colds that were attributed to fiber dust present in the air.

They believed the fiber dust was a result of recycling activities being carried out on the ship, m/v Diamond Highway, docked nearby.

Dust particles settled on the residents’ plants, rooftops, and laundry, and affected the quality of the air.

Josie Hayashi, a resident of Sitio Lupa and a barangay administrator said due to health risks, she and other residents have relocated to safer areas to avoid the pollutants.

Some residents also complained of loud noise coming from the shipbreaking operation and reported seeing an oil spill in the nearby sea.

Ocular inspection

On Friday, March 8, Lapu-Lapu City Councilor Jun Alforque, chairman of the committee on transportation, inspected the site where the m/v Diamond Highway is being dismantled.

During the inspection, Alforque, who used to be a ship worker, discovered that some fiber waste were not properly disposed.

He expressed concern the waste would harm nearby residents and workers as the toxic material could cause cancer.

Shipbreaking involves the breaking up of ships as a source of parts, which can be sold for re-use, or the extraction of raw materials for scrap.

Alforque advised the ship owner to collaborate with the Lapu Lapu City Health Office (LLCHO) and the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) to seek their recommendations.

He said the shipping company must adhere with all requirements of the City Government before the CDO can be lifted.

Alforque said a barangay resolution cannot override the mayor’s cease and desist order.

Cease and desist

The CDO was issued by Mayor Chan on Jan. 31 to prohibit the dismantling or the cutting of the ship’s parts.

The CDO was a response to complaints from around 200 residents of Sitios Tulo, Lupa, and Malingin, as well as a nearby compound, who claimed to have suffered from skin rashes, throat irritation, and cough caused by dust emissions from the shipbreaking operations of m/v Diamond Highway.

In a text message sent to SunStar Cebu on Saturday, March 9, Barangay Punta Engaño Councilor Mark Estardo clarified that the resolution they passed was only to request the Lapu-Lapu City Government to conduct a probe to determine if Pilipinas Precious Metal Resources Inc (PPMRI), the ship-breaking company of m/v Diamond Highway, should be allowed to resume the cutting of the ship.

Estardo said their goal is for the PPMRI to complete its shipbreaking operations to “permanently solve” the problem. He said barangay officials are still waiting for the mayor’s decision on the matter.

Estardo also denied the claim of some residents that only those who could present a medical certificate or doctor’s prescription showing that they had an illness were assisted.

Calling this a “big lie,” Estardo said all affected residents were helped.

Estardo explained residents were encouraged to visit the health center so that the barangay can record the complaint. Anyone who approached the health center for help received the necessary assistance, he said.

Meanwhile, Punta Engaño Barangay Councilor Lito Pagobo clarified that the mayor’s CDO has remained in effect as it can only be lifted by the City Legal Officer with Chan’s approval.


M/v Diamond Highway is a former car carrier built in 2004 as Utopia Ace. The vessel which had a capacity of 6,354 cars and weighed 19,000 dwt, was chartered by Japan’s K Line in 2019.

On June 15, 2019, the vessel caught fire while enroute to the Philippines from Singapore. The 25 crew members had to abandon ship and were later rescued by a bulk carrier. The vessel burned for days before the fire was finally contained.

The hull was initially towed to Batangas Port for repairs and in January 2020, reportedly sent to Keppel Shipyard in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu through Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation’s (MTSC) MT Vigilant, which has 4,000 BHP, to support the towage of m/v Diamond Highway from Subic Bay.

However, in December 2021, the ship was one of over 100 vessels that sank or were stranded when Typhoon Odette (Rai), a fierce storm, hit the Philippines, causing additional damage.

On April 28, 2023, while undergoing salvage operations in Punta Engaño again caught fire. / HIC


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