Foreign ship with timber seeks refuge in Quezon

LUCENA CITY, Philippines -? A China-bound foreign ship loaded with timber dropped anchor off the island town of Patnanungan, Quezon, last Thursday and has been there since, to escape the path of typhoon "Ramil" (international codename: Lupit), police said.

An inspection conducted by the Philippine Navy and the Task Force Bantay Kalikasan (TFBK, Task Force Nature Watch) of the Quezon provincial government showed that the 8,621-tonnage Panama-registered ship MV Bao Feng V.09030 was found carrying round logs from the Solomon Island with an estimated volume of about 19,471.528 cubic meters.

Glenn Forbes, a TFBK staff member, said ship captain Jiang Zhifeng, a Chinese national, presented cargo documents to Philippine Navy authorities who found them to be in order and valid.

The ship's destination is Yangzhou, China.

Quoting the ship captain, Forbes said the ship, with 24 crewmen, was forced to seek shelter in the territorial waters off Patnanungan, some two kilometers from the island town, to avoid Ramil.

On Saturday, Insp. Jesus Erickson Polinag, Patnanungan police chief, reported the sighting of the foreign ship where it had been apparently immobilized for the past two days.

A local police team aboard an outrigger boat went around the vessel where they saw the ship loaded with timber.

Polinag said the Chinese-looking crewmen made no effort to establish any contact or coordinate with the police team.

?The English-speaking ship skipper claimed that he was not aware that they needed to secure permits from Philippine authorities,? Forbes said over the phone Sunday.

He said the cargo vessel was set to resume its voyage towards China on Monday (October 26).

Lawyer Dennis Guerrero, Quezon provincial legal officer and TFBK head, urged maritime authorities to coordinate with other government agencies to intensify sea-borne patrol in the seas off Polilio group of islands facing the Pacific Ocean to thwart any smuggling attempt.

The Polilio island group is located 30 kilometers off the northeastern coast of Quezon province.

It is composed of 27 islands and islets belonging to five towns: Polilio, Burdeos and Panukulan, which occupy the mainland, and the island towns of Patnanungan and Jomalig.

The area had been known as a haven of smuggling operations in the '70s and lately, as drop-points of illegal drugs by international drug syndicates.

In 2001, government forces seized an estimated 498 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride, more popularly known as ?shabu,? while being transported along the highway in northern Quezon aboard the municipal ambulance of Panukulan.

Former town mayor Ronnie T. Mitra and three others acting as escorts were arrested, tried and convicted.

The haul was packaged in ready-to-sell one kilo packs and had an estimated street price of P1 billion.

According to the 2007 census, Patnanungan has a population of 12,825 people.