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PCG, Japanese ship begin ‘bagging' ops to stop leaks from MT Princess Empress

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and a Japanese ship began to implement “bagging” operations to stop the leaks from the sunken motor tanker Princess Empress in Oriental Mindoro.

The PCG personnel, along with the crew of the Shin Nichi Maru, a Japanese dynamic positioning vessel (DPV), started the “bagging” method using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) or underwater robot to seal off the leaks.

“Dumating na sa Oriental Mindoro ang mga specialized bags mula sa United Kingdom para gamitin sa ‘bagging; o pansamantalang pagsasara ng leaking areas mula sa MT Princess Empress. Naisakay na ito sa barkong Shin Nichi Maru katuwang ang PCG personnel para maitest na. Gayundin, inaasahang may darating sa Lunes na 16 customized bags mula sa planta sa Cavite,” Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor said on Saturday.

(Specialized bags from the United Kingdom have arrived in Oriental Mindoro to be used for “bagging” or temporary closure of leaky areas on the MT Princess Empress. They have been loaded onto the Shin Nichi Maru ship with the help of PCG personnel so that they can be tested already. Sixteen customized bags are expected to arrive on Monday from the plant in Cavite.) 

The bagging technique is part of the PCG's oil spill management operations, which include the hiring of marine salvors to do the bagging, sealing, and patching of all identified leaks as well as hot tapping and siphoning the vessel's fuel cargo.

As of March 31, 47 Coast Guard personnel were deployed to conduct shoreline assessment clean-up while seven of its members were working on the offshore response operations. 

Around 16 Coast Guard Marine Science technicians, 20 personnel from the local government units, 58 personnel from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and three volunteers from the Department of Health (DOH) were augmented to support shoreline response operations.

Meanwhile, 167 hired workers, 12 representatives from Harbor Star Shipping Services Inc., and 220 local volunteers also joined the shoreline response activities.
The Pacific Valkyrie, an anchor handling vessel under contract from the United States and carrying an ROV to conduct a video and sonar survey of the motor tanker, arrived in Subic Bay, Zambales, on Tuesday to bolster oil spill management operations.

It will provide additional situational data on the shipwreck, which will be the basis for determining solutions to address the incident.

“We are grateful for all the support from the other countries in addressing this emergency. We hope that along with these international assistance, the integrated response between government agencies and the local government units will enable us to accelerate the effort to contain the leakage and mitigate the impacts of the oil spill.” NDRRMC Executive Director and Civil Defense Administrator, Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno said.

MT Princess Empress sank in waters off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro due to strong waves on February 28 while carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel.

A satellite image from the Philippine Space Agency on March 23 showed the area affected by the oil spill had reached 112 square kilometers, which is close to the total land area of Quezon City. — VBL, GMA Integrated News