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Sunken motor tanker located, says Oriental Mindoro governor

The exact location of the sunken motor tanker that caused an oil spill in several areas in Oriental Mindoro has already been determined, Governor Humerlito Dolor said Monday.

Dolor made the announcement following a phone call from Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga amid a media conference on the updates of the submerged MT Princess Empress.

“Natagpuan na po ang exact location ng barko [The tanker's exact location has been found],” the governor told reporters. “She’s [Yulo] going to see me tomorrow to show me the analyzed data of the exact location…Kailangan maghanda ang Pola kasi nandoon sa area na 'yun nakita [The municipality of Poa must prepare for this because the tanker is there]. It was facing Pola,” he said.

According to Jun Veneracion's report on 24 Oras on Monday, it was the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) that located the sunken vessel, 7.5 nautical miles from Balingawan Point.

In a statement, the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources said that the NAMRIA's BRP Hydrographer Ventura spotted the vessel about 400 meters below sea level.

MT Princess Empress sank on February 28 off Najuan while carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel. Oil spills were reported in several areas in Mindoro, prompting the coastal town of Pola to declare a state of calamity.

On Sunday, Dolor temporarily prohibited residents from securing water from underground water pumps or “poso” while the quality of the water has yet to be examined.

Fishing activities were likewise suspended in the province earlier in response to the health and safety hazards of the massive oil spill.

Asked about the “concern of efforts” of the local government units (LGUs), Dolor said it would be on preventing the remaining industrial fuel from reaching the shores.

“Ang concern of efforts natin ngayon ay paano mape-prevent ‘yung nasa dagat form reaching the shores. At least one problem down. Kasi kung 'yung nasa dagat mahahangin pa sa shores, kahit pa maglinis tayo ngayon, bukas ganun na naman. Sayang lang effort natin,” he added.

(Our efforts right now are to determine hot to prevent the oil on the sea from reaching the shores. At least one problem down. Because if the oil in the sea is blown toward the shoes, even if we clean up today, tomorrow it will be the same all over again. Our efforts will be wasted.)

The owners of the tanker's operating company said they would help the LGUs in cleaning up the oil spill and provide alternative livelihood for the affected fisherfolks.

Within three to five days, a remotely operated vehicle contracted for use by the company will arrive to locate the leak in the vessel, and a robot will be used to siphon up the oil from the sea, the 24 Oras report said.

Oil spill reached Palawan Island

Meanwhile, two barangays in Agutaya town in Palawan have reported oil in the area.

According to a report on “BaliTanghali, the Palawan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction, and Management Office said they have sighted oil residue in the water lines of Barangay Concepcion and Barangay Algeciras.

Residents have already crafted makeshift spill booms to prevent it from further spreading due to its risk to their livelihood as seaweed farmers.

Malay town on ‘heightened alert’

For its part, the coastal town of Malay in Aklan said it is already on “heightened alert,” with the threat of the oil spill reaching its shores, including Boracay.

The municipal government said it is working with barangay disaster risk reduction and management councils and the PCG in “conducting continuous monitoring of our coastal areas.”

“Based on the direction of the wind, we have identified the nearest susceptible areas. We have pre-positioned oil spill booms to these areas as our primary defense,” it said in a statement.

“The LGU is also preparing oil containment defense out of indigenous materials for our secondary defense. Despite the low probability of the oil spill reaching our shores, we cannot be complacent,” it added.

Further, the Malay LGU said it is preparing for the “worst-case scenario” but no sighting of the possible oil spill was reported in their area as well as in Boracay. — BM, GMA Integrated News