DENR forms task force to protect marine ecosystems after oil tanker sinks off Oriental Mindoro

By GISELLE OMBAY,GMA Integrated News

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has formed a task force to secure the marine protected areas that may be affected by the possible oil spill from the motor tanker carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil that sank off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro on Tuesday.

In a statement, the DENR said “Task Force Naujan Oil Spill” was created after it conducted an emergency meeting with the Philippine Coast Guard, Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor, and Naujan Mayor Henry Joel Teves.

DENR Undersecretary and chief of staff Marilou Erni, who served as the corporate ground response coordinator during the Guimaras oil spill in 2006, was appointed as task force commander.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Rear Admiral Armand Balilo said Wednesday that it is monitoring for possible oil spill from MT Princess Empress which has now totally sunk.

According to the PCG, an oil spill six kilometers long and four kilometers wide was spotted in the area where the tanker sank.


“A DENR-BMB report states that on a maximum of 40-kilometer radius from 5NM East of Balingawan Port, 21 locally-managed marine protected areas can be potentially affected due to oil spillage. It has mapped potential risk areas including seagrass beds, mangroves, and dispersion pathways for spawned fish larvae,” the DENR said in a statement.

This was determined after DENR conducted a water sampling in the municipalities of Naujan, Pola, and Pinamalayan.

The agency said PCG’s Marine Environmental Protection Command would be the lead agency tasked with the response operations in the affected area.

Balilo said they have deployed one of their vessels, BRP Melchora Aquino, to the area to conduct the monitoring. It is carrying spill booms ready to conduct proper procedure in case of an oil spill.

The DENR said the task force, in coordination with PCG and Philippine Air Force, will also conduct an aerial surveillance in the next few days to further assess the situation.

The agency said it has also coordinated with experts from the private sector to address the issue and create a mid to long-term risk management strategy for the affected areas. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News