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12 April 2014

SBMA probes looting of historical shipwreck

ZAMBALES, Philippines – Officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) ordered an investigation into reports that there was massive looting of a historical shipwreck here, with the agency's own harbor patrol officers allegedly protecting the perpetrators.

SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia told reporters that the SBMA's Law Enforcement Department (LED) had called members of the harbor patrol unit who were manning the Subic diving site during the reported illegal salvage operations. They took place near the shoreline between Grande Island and Chiquita Island on March 19 and 20.

Subic, former host to a United States military base, is also the site of perhaps the biggest number of sunken Japanese ships since World War II – ranging from 10 to 25, according to various accounts. The local government has been promoting wreck diving to attract tourist.

Locals said the ship whose parts were reportedly taken by looters was said to be a "sister ship" of the San Quentin, a wooden gunboat that sank in 1898, and is the oldest known wreck in Subic.

"We are gathering statements [of these harbor patrols] for them to finally answer [the allegations]," Garcia said, adding that they would not spare anyone who would be found guilty.

According to him, SBMA has already tapped all concerned agencies, such as the Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, and the Regional Maritime Unit here to help the agency stop the incidents of looting.

He said they are also urging the Subic divers to help them in solving this problem.

"We will coordinate with the Subic divers and work out an arrangement [to deal with this issue]," Garcia said.

On Monday, police filed charges against 5 men who were caught carrying out unauthorized salvage of vessels and wrecks.

The looting incident was reported by members of the Subic Bay Diving Association, headed by Scott Sharpe.

The suspected looters were identified as Danilo Casapao, 46; Junel Rivera, 31; Armando Salazar, 41; Manuel Casapao, 44; and Michael Eduarte, 37. All were from Barangay Mabayo, Morong, Bataan and remained at large. (Randy V. Datu, Rappler.com)

http://www.rappler.com/nation/54163-sbma-probes-historical-shipwreck-looting

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