The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) on Thursday said it has issued cease and desist orders against RDC Reield Marine Services, the company that owns the sunken MT Princess Empress.
MARINA Administrator Hernani Fabia said that the agency issued two cease and desist orders for the company’s Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) and its remaining three vessels, of which two are tankers and one is a passenger vessel.
“One is for purposes ng cancellation of the franchise or the CPC, the other one is to cease and desist in the operations,” Fabia said in an ambush interview following the meeting of the Oil Spill Inter-Agency Committee at the Department of Justice.
He said the cease and desist order will remain effective pending the result of the investigation into the oil spill.
According to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, the tanker was so old that it had already been scrapped, contrary to claims that it was a new vessel. He said the MT Princess Empress was not built to be a tanker from the beginning.
Fabia, however, said this was not true based on their records.
“Ah, sa bago yan, it’s newly-constructed. Hindi new ha? Newly constructed,” he said.
(This is not new, it’s newly constructed. It’s not new. Newly-constructed.)
“Eh, kung bumili ka ano na yan, yung new ibig sabihin it’s being— ano na existing. Pero ito naman newly-constructed, new from scratch,” he later added.
(If you buy it, new means it’s already existing. But this is newly constructed, new from scratch.)
When sought for comment, Remulla said there are six witnesses saying otherwise.
“Well, that is their allegation now, that is their claim, but we will look into it because there are claims otherwise. We will have to weigh the statements of the other witnesses,” Remulla said in a separate ambush interview.
Meanwhile, during the meeting, Environment Undersecretary Ignatius Rodriguez said initial calculations show that an administrative fine amounting to P471,000 per day from March 1 until the oil spill is resolved may be imposed on RDC.
He said this is because eight out of 10 samples examined by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources showed contamination.
Rodriguez said they are still collecting more samples.
The meeting was attended by Remulla, Justice Undersecretary and Committee head Raul Vasquez, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez, MARINA administrator Fabia, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, Coast Guard Admiral Artemio Abu, Relly Garcia of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and others.
GMA News Online has sought the comment of the RDC, but it has yet to reply as of posting time.
Meanwhile, Remulla said the government is looking into the possible procurement of ROV services for the cleanup of the oil spill.
“We’re finalizing the study. Hopefully, we’ll get something by tomorrow kung kaya natin i-procure ito. Legally on an emergency basis. It’s a little touchy because of what happened in the vaccine,” he said.
“Pero ito kasi, there’s no turning back eh, talagang wala tayong magagawa na. (We can't do anything about it anymore.) We’ve been very patient but we just have to wait for it. We just have to cross the rubicon now on whether we can procure on an emergency basis as soon as possible time,” he added.
When asked how much the service will cost, Remulla said it may initially cost the government P120 million.
He said the services are being procured by a “specialist group.”
“Ang sabi ko lang (I said), we can always get the reimbursement from the people who should be paying for it, because this is a necessary thing that will not last forever. Either we do it now or we never do it,” he said.
He said the United States Coast Guard Navy has discussed with the Department of National Defense about possibly helping in the cleanup.
Meanwhile, Remulla said he wants all agencies to have ROVs in the future.
“Pinaguusapan namin kanina (We talked about it), the other agencies, all of us should have ROVs in the near future. Kasi nung araw yung (Back in the day) [having] drone was a pipe dream but now everybody has a drone,” he said. —VAL, GMA Integrated News