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Makabayan seeks House inquiry on Mindoro oil spill

The Makabayan lawmakers on Thursday sought a congressional inquiry on the Mindoro oil spill due to sunken MT  Princess Empress, saying delayed aid resulting from the incident would be detrimental to the community.

House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro, House Assistant Minority Leader Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan party-list Representative Raoul Manuel called for the inquiry under their House Resolution 869.

The lawmakers noted that the oil spill-affected areas are within the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor which spans 1.4 million hectares and covers Batangas, Marinduque, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, and Romblon, with over two million people living  along the passage and depending on its resources to survive.

They also cited that based on government records, over 30,000 families or 137,230 people from 121 barangays within the MIMAROPA and Western Visayas.regions have beenaffected by the oil spill from the tanker MT Princess Empress as of March. 11 alone.

“A fishing ban was implemented until the spill was cleaned up, affecting the livelihoods of more than 18,000 fisherfolks in 60 villages. The oil spill will adversely affect Mindoro Oriental's fishing Industry, possibly resulting in lower fish catches and production,” the Makabayan lawmakers said.

“The national government must provide immediate compensation for the fisherfolk and familes affected by the oil spill, and must exhaust all means to stop the further spread of the industrial fuel oil. Now, therefore, be it resolved, as it is hereby resolved, that the House of Representatives through the Committee on Natural Resources and Committee on Aquaculture and Fisheries Resource immediately conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the effects of the oil spill caused by the MT Princess Empress on the environment, livelihood of fisherfolks, and the  local production of fish,” they added.

Castro, in a separate press conference, also reminded the government to ensure that the affected communities are properly compensated for their losses.

“We have Republic Act 9483 which is the Oil Spill Compensation Act. This compensation should not be given on a whim,” Castro said.

“The budget for this is P400 million, and the government should give it to affected residents and not negotiate amounts just to get it over with sooner rather than later,” Castro added.

MT Princess Empress sank off the waters of Oriental Mindoro last February 28 due to an engine problem. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Thursday that it was carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel oil and not 800,000 as previously reported. 

The PCG  has reported that the said  vessel sank 400 meters into the ocean, a depth too deep for divers to reach. To illustrate this depth, the PCG said it exceeds the height of Grand Hyatt Manila, the tallest building in the Philippines.

The Department of National Defense reported to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that at least 169 individuals were reported to have been injured or fell ill due to the oil spill. —VAL, GMA Integrated News