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‘Finders, Keepers’: Zambales guv OKs auction of floating booms

Aug 5, 2015 @ 4:42

Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr. has allowed local fishermen to sell the dredging assemblies they found near the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

Ebdane, after a discussion with the fishermen in Iba town, said the fishermen who discovered the equipment and towed it back to shore have every right to own and sell it.

“The fishermen have decided to auction the equipment and go for the highest bidder,” the governor was quoted by Business Mirror as saying. “The auction will be made under the principle of ‘finders, keepers’.”

Ebdane said the provincial government will supervise the process “so that it will be documented, transparent and favorable to the locals.”

Initially thought as oil spill containment booms, the huge objects turned out to be parts of dredging equipment used to suck up sand from the sea bottom.

The fishermen have retrieved from the sea a total of 34 dredging assemblies. Each assembly is composed of a 12-meter long, 1-meter diameter iron pipe with three plastic-encapsulated foam floaters and flexible rubber connectors.

Nine other assemblies were retrieved by fishermen from Barangay Santo Rosario, while another was found off the coast of Masinloc, two towns north of Iba.

Zambales Provincial Engineer Domingo Mariano said the iron pipes could fetch a hefty sum since they are “seamless, zinc-coated pipe” that do not rust in seawater.

Each pipe may weigh from three to five tons, he added.

At the minimum price of P6.50 per kilo that some middlemen offered, the 34 pipes in San Agustin could easily be worth P600,000.

Ebdane said the objects were obviously owned by the Chinese, who had been reclaiming reefs and shoals in the disputed areas of West Philippine Sea.

“It’s obvious who owns these equipment. But if they don’t come forward to claim the equipment—which I doubt they would—then, legally speaking, the ownership would belong to the fishermen under Article 719 of the Civil Code,” the former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief said.

Ebdane hinted the floating assemblies could have broken off from ships at the reclamation site in the disputed Spratly Islands Group, and sea current could have brought them off the Zambales coast.

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