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Oriental Mindoro suspends fishing in oil spill affected areas

Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor on Friday said he suspended fishing in areas affected by an oil spill from a sunken motor tanker off Naujan.

Dolor said at least eight towns in the province were affected by the oil spill from the oil tanker MT Princess Empress, which was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it sank in heavy seas on February 28.

"Eight towns na po, from the original Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan. Now it has reached Mansalay. One town in the southernmost is not coming," Dolor said in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB.

(There are eight towns, from the original Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan. Now it has reached Mansalay. Only one town in the south was not affected by the oil spill.)

"We have a report that there are three barangays that have a presence right on the shoreline right there on the beaches, so it's a little worrying because our mangrove areas have reached the town of Pola," he added.

(In the town of Pola, three barangays reported the presence of oil on the shoreline and beaches. We are worried because even our Pola town mangroves were affected.)

While Dolor did not mention the other affected areas, he said he ordered the suspension of fishing activities in affected areas on Wednesday due to possible water toxification.

"Our people can't go to the sea to fish, that's the biggest problem because since Wednesday, I have ordered that these people are not allowed to fish because it is dangerous. First of all, water toxification can pose a risk to both... humans and the fish they catch," he said.

(Our people can't head out to sea to fish, that's the biggest problem. Because since Wednesday, I prohibited our fisherfolk from fishing because it's dangerous due to water toxification. That is dangerous to both people and the marine resources.)

"We have also advised that in the meantime, while the results of the examination of the level of chemicals contained in the oil are not available, do not eat or consume seafood," he added.

(We also released an advisory to avoid consuming marine resources while waiting for the examination results on the level of chemicals in the water.)

The Oriental Mindoro governor said almost half of the residents in the affected towns were affected as fishing was their only livelihood.

He was also concerned that the oil tanker could possibly be moving due to the strong current.

"It is a concern that the exact location of the ship cannot be placed, though the source [of the spill] was pointed out to be 7.4 nautical miles from the shoreline. So... the ship has changed [location] by one nautical mile. It is believed to be moving through a strong current," he said.

(It is also concerning that we cannot pinpoint the exact location of the ship because it was earlier located 7.4 nautical miles from the shoreline. It is believed to be moving due to the strong current.)

Dolor, meanwhile, said the local government and concerned agencies would distribute food packs to the affected residents.

"We are calling on our countrymen to continue to be careful, not to go to the ocean and the seashore where we smell oil and diesel. We also want to avoid going to these places to prevent possible disease," he added.

(We appeal to our residents to remain vigilant and avoid going out the sea where they can smell oil and diesel. Also, let's avoid going to these affected areas to prevent possible illnesses.)

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Friday said the areas tagged as exclusion zones were Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan, and Bongabong.

It also confirmed that some marine protected areas were affected.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the spill could affect 21 locally managed marine protected areas within a 40-kilometer radius from a spot five nautical miles east of Balingawan Port.

Meanwhile, the PCG placed an oil spill bloom to contain the spill and deployed divers and marine experts to help in the containment effort.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the sinking.

The international cargo vessel MV Efes rescued the sunken tankers' 20 crew and brought them to Subic, Zambales Tuesday evening. — DVM, GMA Integrated News