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MARINA says it found probable cause vs. MT Princess Empress owner

The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) on Tuesday said it has found probable cause to file charges against the owner of the sunken motor tanker Princess Empress, which has caused an oil spill in Oriental Mindoro.

“In fact, MARINA has completed its initial investigation on the shipping properties, on the show cause order, issued before and a resolution has been issued finding probable cause to file a formal charge to the shipping company,” MARINA deputy administrator Sonia Malaluan said during an inter-agency committee meeting on the oil spill. She did not elaborate.

Marina previously issued two cease and desist orders for the RDC Reield Marine Services’ Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) and its remaining three vessels, of which two are tankers and one is a passenger vessel.

GMA News Online has reached out to Reield Marine Services for its comment, but it has yet to respond as of posting time.

MT Princess Empress sank on February 28 off Najuan, Oriental Mindoro while carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel.

In late March, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said more than 300,000 liters of oil were still left in the sunken motor tanker.

'Moving entity'

Meanwhile, Commodore Leysander Ordones, a consultant of the Department of Justice (DOJ), said there were 30 kilometers of oil that was caught on satellite, describing it as "moving dynamic entity." 

“Nakikita ng satellite may tumatakbo ngayong oil spill… 30 kilometers. That’s from here to SM Dasmariñas 'yan, ganon siya kahaba. Tapos three kilometers ang lapad niya,” Ordones said.

According to Ordones, the mass of oil was moving in a southwestern direction at 25 kilometers per day. He said it may go through Tubbatha Reef and Puerto Princessa.

“Ang speed niya is 25 kilometers per day. Aabot siya — baka umabot ng Mindanao. So abangan na natin siya,” he said.

Philippine Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operations Vice Admiral Rolando Lizor Punzalan Jr., meanwhile, said they have sent ships to check the status of the oil.

“Authorities who were with us have a disclaimer on this… it’s just a hint on what could be on ground. That’s why we sent our ships to check ano status niyan on ground,” he said.

“Perhaps I say so so that we could be more factual and prevent unnecessary anxieties.”

Present during the meeting were Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, Vasquez, Justice spokesperson Mico Clavano and representatives of the PCG, MARINA, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, National Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Health.

Criminal charges

In an ambush interview, Remulla said it is also very possible for some MARINA officials to face criminal charges.

“Very possible. That’s very possible,” Remulla said.

“No one will escape scrutiny when it comes to this. Because as I said, it’s the time for us to not only to repent but to account for what we have done,” he added.

According to Remulla, the NBI is investigating MARINA’s processes to determine if charges will be filed.

“This will not be a time for people to say na walang kaso ito. There will be cases filed and we are determined to make sure that people do not forget that what happened was a crime and not an accident. It was a crime,” he said.

GMA News Online has sought comment from MARINA but has yet to receive a response as of posting time.

The DOJ previously said an inter-agency committee and the NBI was looking into the possibility that some officials of the PCG and MARINA colluded to allow the MT Princess Empress to sail without a license. 

Meanwhile, Malaluan declined to comment on the secretary's remark, saying they cannot preempt the result of an ongoing investigation. —KBK/ VAL, GMA Integrated News