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BOC seizes vessel loaded with 25,000 tons of PH nickel ores

Value estimated at more than P137 million

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THE Bureau of Customs has issued a seizure order against a foreign-registered vessel docked off the coast of Zambales loaded with 25,000 metric tons of “nickel laterite ore” with an estimated value of P137 million for lack of an export permit and environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The vessel, ‘M/V Van Knight’ (Registry No. RMC0038-22), was contracted by Yinglong Steel Corporation to ship out the mineral for processing in mainland China.

Port of Manila (POM) district collector, Michael Angelo DC Vargas, ordered the seizure and detention of the vessel and its cargo early today, January 16, 2023, thru the issuance of a ‘Warrant of Seizure and Detention’ (WSD) noting that “probable cause exists to issue a WSD in accordance with Section 1113 (property subject to seizure and forfeiture) and Section 1401 (unlawful importation and exportation) of RA 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).”

Vargas issued the WSD (No. 2023-03) based on the investigation conducted by Joel Pinawin, POM intelligence chief beginning on January 13, in coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard, the Sub-port of Masinloc and personnel from the POM’s Piers and Inspection Division (PID).

The first page of the WSD issued by the Bureau of Customs – Port of Manila, against M/V Van Knight.

A day before, Atty. Wilfredo Moncano, director of the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau, suspended the Mineral Ore Export Permit (MOEP) granted to Yinglong Steel by the DENR’s regional office last December 29, 2022.

The MGB cited among others, Yinglong’s failure to secure an ECC, which is mandated under PD 1586 and the alleged complaints from local residents on the destruction to their environment being caused by the company’s mining activities.

Yinglong is locked in ownership dispute with ‘Westchinamin Corporation’ with the latter asking the DENR since last year to revoke the mining right in Zambales covering more than 200,000 hectares it transferred to the former.

Yinglong Steel allegedly failed to fully pay their agreed amount of $20 million.

Since last year, the DENR has also ordered Yinglong Steel to immediately stop all its mining activities in the province but to no avail, however.

At the current laterite nickel ore price from the Philippines of about $100 per ton bound for China (freight included), the value of the seized ores has been estimated at $2.5 million or roughly P137 million.

Vargas also instructed that the POM’s Auction and Cargo Disposal Division (ACDD) to immediately conduct an inventory of the vessel and its cargo which is presently docked near the DMCI Wharf, Bolitoc-Longis, Sta. Cruz, Zambales.

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