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Thick, black oil spotted in area where motor tanker sank off Mindoro —PCG

Black and thick oil has been spotted in the area where a motor tanker carrying litters of industrialized fuel oil sank off Oriental Mindoro earlier this week, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said Thursday.

“Doon sa report na natanggap namin from the ground commander, meron nang nakikitang palatandaan na maitim na oil na maaaring ito yung industrial fuel oil na tinitignan natin,” PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armand Balilo said on Unang Balita.

(Based on the report that we received from the ground commander, they have seen signs of black oil which could be the industrial fuel oil that we are watching out for.)

In a Facebook post, the PCG said it has confirmed "the presence and possible source of the oil spill (BLACK AND THICK WITH STRONG ODOR) at the vicinity waters 7.4 nautical miles southwest off Balingawan Point, Naujan, Oriental Mindoro."

A PCG vessel then sprayed oil dispersants in the area while another vessel launched its rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) to gather water samples.

"The Marine Environmental Protection Unit has observed a black and thick oil on the collected water samples," it said. 

MT Princess Empress was carrying 800,000 liters of industrialized fuel oil when it sank of Naujan in Oriental Mindoro.

According to Balilo, authorities are watching out for the possible spill of industrialized fuel oil because this material could be destructive to marine ecosystem.

He noted that the liters of industrialized fuel oil were not placed in sealed containers but were loaded inside the motor tanker itself.

“Kapag lumubog ang isang barko maaaring maapektuhan yung kanyang integrity, yung structure at maaaring magkaroon ng butas at ang langis na laman nito ay bumulwak dahil sa pressure,” he said.

(When a ship sinks, its integrity and structure might get affected and it might sustain a hole where the oil would spill due to pressure.)

According to Balilo, the motor tanker sank 400 meters which was too deep for divers to reach.

In an update, the PCG said it has also observed an oil spill stranding along the shoreline of Barangay Buhay na Tubig in Pola, Oriental Mindoro.

Marine Environmental Protection Unit (MEPU) teams, concerned LGU, and other stakeholders have been informed to proceed to the area for shoreline clean-up, it added.

At least three towns — Naujan, Pola, and Pinamalayan — were affected by the oil spill, the PCG said.

Based on the initial investigation, the motor tanker sank after its engine overheated and experienced failure amid bad weather and strong waves.

The PCG and stakeholders are monitoring the situation and discussing how to address the matter, according to Balilo.

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. —KBK, GMA Integrated News