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Puerto Galera mayor blames UP-MSI oil spill projection for tourist cancellations

The mayor of Puerto Galera on Wednesday called out the UP-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) for its projection that the oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress will reach the town, saying it resulted in tourist cancellations.

"Ang dami po naming cancellations dahil dito sa ginagawa ng MSI," Mayor Rocky Ilagan said during a televised public briefing.

"Sabi ko dapat naman nagiging responsible naman sila dahil 'yung livelihood ng tao dapat naiisip nila, dahil in actual wala naman talaga (na nakarating na oil spill)."

(We have a lot of tourist cancellations because of what MSI did. They should be responsible with their statements and think about people's livelihood because, in actuality, the oil spill has not reached us.)

Sought for comment, UP-MSI associate professor Dr. Irene Rodriguez said they released their projection as an "early warning" for local governments to prepare in case the oil spill reaches their respective waters.

"The projections of the trajectory of oil slick we released may be used by LGU officials as an early warning for them to prepare and deploy countermeasures to prevent the oil from reaching their shores," Rodriguez told GMA News Online.

She added that the institution shares the hope with the LGU officials "that the oil spill will be contained near the point source and removed while it is still offshore."

In an interview on Super Radyo dzBB on Sunday, Rodriguez explained based on their recent projections, the Northeast Monsoon or Amihan has slowed down and is going towards the north along the Verde Island passage.

“Based on projections, ang oil slick ay posibleng madala towards the north. So, pa-hilaga ang direksyon ng oil slick at ito ay maaaring makaapekto sa munisipalidad o coastal environments ng Calapan, Puerto Galera, at areas sa Batangas,” she said.

(Based on projections, the oil slick could possibly be carried north. So, the direction of the oil slick is northward and it may affect the municipalities or coastal environments of Calapan, Puerto Galera, and areas in Batangas.)

Ilagan said based on the results of the test conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Puerto Galera's water, there is no sign of oil slick in its shorelines yet.

"Sa ngayon po ay wala po kaming oil spill, negative. Hindi pa siya tumatama sa amin. Natatakot lang mga tao,” he said.

(Right now the oil spill hasn't hit us yet. People are just scared.)

He noted that UP-MSI's projection does not consider the preparations of the local government but only "graphics."

"Ang mahirap kasi sa projection ng MSI, hindi niya kino-consider 'yung ginagawa ng gobyerno doon. Ang pinapakita niya lang, 'yung graphics. Natatakot tuloy 'yung mga tao," Ilagan said.

(The problem with MSI's projection is that it does not consider what the local government is doing there. The only thing they show is the graphics, and that makes people scared.)

Ilagan said the local government of Puerto Galera has contingency plans if ever the oil spill reaches its shorelines.

According to the Department of Tourism (DOT), at least 61 tourist sites were affected by the oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress.

Dr. Rodriguez of UP-MSI estimated that it would take six months to one year to clean up the oil spill-affected areas. —KBK, GMA Integrated News