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PCG monitoring, ready for possible oil spill from sunken tanker off Mindoro —spox

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is monitoring for possible oil spill from the motor tanker carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil that sank off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro on Tuesday, an official said Wednesday.

Interviewed on Dobol B TV, PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armand Balilo said they have deployed one of their vessels, BRP Melchora Aquino, to the area to conduct the monitoring.

"'Yung ating BRP Melchora Aquino ay nakaantabay at may mga dalang oil spill boom at nakahanda po. May instruction si [PCG commandant] Admiral [Artemio] Abu na i-monitor at gawin 'yung tamang oil spill procedure para sakaling magkaroon ng tagas ay nakahanda po tayo," Balilo said.

(Our BRP Melchora Aquino is already in the area and they have oil spill booms. Admiral Abu gave instruction to follow the proper procedure in case of an oil spill.)

Another ship from PCG's naval station in Batangas will also be deployed to the area, he added.

An aerial surveillance conducted by the PCG on Tuesday sighted a suspected oil spill but Balilo said it was determined that it was just diesel fuel from the ill-fated tanker, MT Princess Empress.

Balilo said the diesel fuel does not pose danger to the marine ecosystem in the area.

"Nagdi-dissipate kaagad 'yan under the heat of the sun tsaka kapag nahahampas ng alon 'yung small particles niya natutunaw agad [It dissipates under the heat of the sun and gets washed away by the waves]," he said.

Based on the PCG's monitoring as of 6:10 a.m., an oil spillage six kilometers long and four kilometers wide was spotted in the area where the tanker sank.

The PCG also said that from being half-submerged, MT Princess Empress has totally sunk.

Balilo said they have yet to determine the exact location of the tanker under water.

Salvage operation, once the vessel is located, will be handled by the company that owns the vessel, with assistance from the PCG and other stakeholders, he added.

"Kelan tanggalin kasi any time puwede itong tumagas at mag-cause ng environmental catastrophe [The vessel should be removed to prevent an environmental catastrophe]," Balilo said.

MT Princess Empress was carrying 20 people, who were all rescued by a passing foreign vessel, when it sank off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro (initially reported in Tamblas Island, Romblon) early Tuesday morning.

Residents of Naujan have been advised not to go near the site of the incident, Balilo said.

Asked if someone should be fined or help liable over the incident, Balilo said it should be determined first if there was negligence before such actions could be taken.

"Laging pag may negligence, pag may kasalanan, maaaring sampahan ng kaso. Pero ito ay matapos pang mag-imbestiga at malaman na may negligence talaga," he said.

(Charges should be filed if there is negligence, but there should be an investigation first to determine if there is negligence.)  —KBK, GMA Integrated News