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Int'l body committed to settle claims of Oriental Mindoro oil spill victims —DOJ

An international body that provides financial compensation for oil pollution damage has committed to settle the claims of oil spill victims in Oriental Mindoro, Justice Undersecretary Raul Vasquez said Tuesday.

In an ambush interview after the oil spill inter-agency committee meeting, Vasquez said the commitment was made by officials of the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Funds during a recent visit.

"The IOPC visited us and this showed their commitment to settle all claims because the IOPC is the one that handled the funds," Vasquez said, adding the Philippines is a member state of the convention that created the IOPC.

But first, the IOPC must assess the validity of the victims' claims, Vasquez said.

"As mentioned by the director of IOPC, Mr. [Gaute] Silversten, he will bring his fact-finding investigation results and report to their principal, and IOPC would have to assess the validity of the claims and make the necessary payments," he said.

P&I, the insurer of the owner of the ill-fated MT Princess Empress, committed to do the retrieval operations.

"Retrieval in the sense they are now in the process of considering the different methodologies by which the industrial oil that remains inside the estimated three of the eight… containers or tanks of the vessel would be siphoned off," Vasquez said.

He said this included the possibility of raising the vessel from the depths of the ocean.

According to Vasquez, the government asked P&I for a written undertaking from the insurer.

"We gave them ten days to give us the report and tell us how soon they will do that," he said.

Meanwhile, Vasquez said no representative from the Maritime Industry Authority attended Tuesday morning's meeting.

"They were notified, they’re not here although I was told just few days ago they finally submitted their report," the undersecretary said.

"We will study whether or not the report is complete and we will vet all the reports, crosscheck, cross-vet them, countercheck based on the investigation of the [National Bureau of Investigation]."

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