Ship-breaking operation of stranded vessel ‘continues’ despite cease and desist order

CEBU. M/V Diamond Highway, which has been stranded in Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.
CEBU. M/V Diamond Highway, which has been stranded in Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu. Photo from Lapu-Lapu City PIO

OVER 300 residents from four sitios in Barangay Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City presented a petition during a press conference to express their dismay over the continued ship-breaking operation of M/V Diamond Highway.

The operation reportedly continues in Sitio Proper Jansen despite a cease and desist order issued by the Lapu-Lapu City Government in January.

The residents attended the press conference at the Arterra Hotel in Punta Engaño on Friday, March 8, 2024, to urge Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan to stop the wrecking works.

They said the operation still poses health problems to their children and some elderly.

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

Oil spill and fiber dust

In December 2023, some individuals reported experiencing respiratory issues such as coughs and colds, which they attributed to the fiber dust present in the air.

They believe that the fiber dust was a result of the recycling activities being carried out on a nearby ship, which is the M/V Diamond Highway. This dust settled on their plants, rooftops, and laundry, and they believe that it affected the quality of the air they were breathing.

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

Some residents, who chose to remain anonymous, complained of loud noise from the ship-breaking operation. They also reported seeing oil spill in the nearby seawater.

Toxic waste

On Friday, March 8, Lapu-Lapu City Councilor Jun Alforque also conducted an ocular inspection of the area where the M/V Diamond Highway is being dismantled.

During an inspection, Alforque, who had previously worked as a ship worker, discovered that some fiber waste was not being disposed of properly.

He expressed concern that this waste could harm nearby residents and ship-breaking workers. This toxic material has the potential to cause cancer.

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 obtain recommendations.

He said the shipping company should adhere to any requirements that the City Government may impose before they can lift the cease and desist order.

Cease and desist order

As reported by SunStar on February 3, a cease and desist order was issued by Chan on January 31 to prohibit the ship-breaking company from cutting any parts of the M/V Diamond Highway.

This was in response to complaints from around 200 residents of Sitios Tulo, Lupa, and Malingin, as well as a nearby compound, who claim to have suffered from skin rashes, throat irritation, and cough caused by dust emissions from the ship-breaking operations.

Barangay Councilor Mark Estardo then reported that officials from Cenro, LLCHO, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had conducted tests to assess the safety of the water near the ship.

When asked about the safety of swimmers, the city's Public Information Office stated that there are no resorts located near the ship-breaking area.

Agnes Realiza, head of Lapu-Lapu City Health Office, confirmed in a phone interview with SunStar Cebu on February 14 that no complaints were received from the affected residents after the incident was first reported in February.

SunStar Cebu also attempted to reach out to Cenro to obtain the results from the conducted test, but there has been no response from them yet.

Authorized by a resolution?

During the press conference on Friday, Hayashi mentioned the barangay council authored a resolution to allow the ship-breaking operations to continue despite the cease and desist order issued by the mayor.

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

On behalf of the City Government, Alforque clarified that the barangay resolution could not override the mayor's cease and desist order.

Another barangay councilor, Lito Pagobo, also confirmed that the cease and desist order is still in effect and can only be lifted by the City Legal Officer with approval from the mayor.

In a text message sent to SunStar Cebu on Saturday, March 9, Escardo clarified that the resolution they passed only requests the Lapu-Lapu City Government to conduct an investigation.

The investigation will determine whether the Pilipinas Precious Metal Resources Inc (PPMRI), the ship-breaking company of M/V Diamond Highway, should be allowed to resume the ship-breaking or cutting of the vessel.

Escardo added that their goal is for PPMRI to complete its ship-breaking operations to permanently solve the problem. However, they are still waiting for a decision from Chan regarding this matter.

SunStar Cebu is currently attempting to reach Chan to obtain comments regarding the issue.

Towed to Cebu

M/V Diamond Highway is a former car carrier originally built in 2004 as Utopia Ace. It was chartered to Japan's K Line in 2019. The ship had a capacity of 6,354 cars and weighed 19,000 dwt.

On June 15, 2019, the vessel was inbound to the Philippines from Singapore when a fire broke out. The crew of 25 had to abandon the ship and they 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 later reported to be sent to Keppel Shipyard in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.

In January 2020, Nippon Salvage contracted 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 to Cebu.

But in December 2021, the M/V Diamond Highway was one of over 100 vessels that sank or were stranded when Typhoon Rai, a fierce storm, hit the Philippines. The vessel was stranded by the storm, causing additional damage.

On April 28, 2023, the ship undergoing salvage operation in Punta Engaño caught fire.

As per inquiry to M/V Diamond Highway's operations manager, Arnel Villaganas, by the Philippine Coast Guard Sub-Station Lapu-Lapu, the fire started from the starboard bow while they were cutting the vessel's scrap metals.


Some residents said that they received help from the contractor or the shipping company of the M/V Diamond Highway in the form of medicine and food packages. However, this help was only given to residents who could present a medical certificate or doctor's prescription showing that they had an illness.

Escardo denied this allegation and said that it was a big lie. He stressed that all affected residents were assisted.

He also said that the barangay had continuously urged the affected residents to visit the Punta Engaño Barangay Hall to have themselves checked by doctors from its health center.

Escardo added that they encouraged the residents to visit the health center for record purposes for the barangay and that anyone who approached the health center for help received the necessary assistance. (HIC)


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