By Wilnard Bacelonia

DREDGING ACTIVITIES. The Zambales Ecological Network group shows via Facebook live on March 1, 2024 the ships seen from the shores of San Felipe town. Senator Jinggoy Estrada filed a resolution Wednesday (March 13, 2024) seeking to investigate the reported dredging activities of Chinese vessels in Zambales. (Screengrab from Zambales Ecological Network Facebook page)

MANILA – Senator Jinggoy Estrada filed a resolution Wednesday seeking to investigate the reported dredging activities of Chinese vessels in Zambales.

Estrada is worried that the activities could have a significant impact on the lives of Zambales residents who rely on fishing and may disturb the overall balance of the ecosystem.

“The ongoing dredging activities may disturb the overall balance of the ecosystem; therefore, we must take into consideration the long-term effects of these actions. Our natural resources need to be protected,” he said in a statement.

The authorities, Estrada said, are claiming that the purpose of the dredging operation is to rehabilitate the heavily silted river channels and prevent flooding.

But the lawmaker’s office received information that the extracted sand from rivers are being transported to the reclamation areas in Manila Bay.

“I am from Zambales and this is a matter of serious concern because I’m wondering why there are several Chinese vessels that are stationed in the town of San Felipe, Zambales,” Estrada said.

Under Senate Resolution No. 966, Estrada said the dredging activities are being carried out by China Harbour Engineering Co. and its subsidiary China Communications Construction Co.

In 2019, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued Administrative Order No. 13 rationalizing the dredging activities in the heavily silted river channels of Bucao in Botolan, Maloma in San Felipe and Sto. Tomas traversing the towns of San Marcelino, San Narciso and San Felipe.

The order recognizes “the exclusive authority of the Province to issue permit to extract sand, gravel and other quarry resources, pursuant to the ordinance of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, under Republic Act. No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991.” (PNA)