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Pola mayor eyes case vs. shipowner over Oriental Mindoro oil spill

Pola, Oriental Mindoro Mayor Jennifer Cruz on Thursday said they are considering filing a case against the shipowner of the sunken motor tanker that has caused an oil spill in the province.

At a press conference, Cruz said there should be an inter-agency effort to investigate the oil spill that has caused health issues among some of their residents as well as environmental damage.

She then asked for help from representatives from the Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Health (DOH), and Philippine National Police, among others, to conduct assessments and gather evidence regarding the effects of the oil spill.

“Ayoko kasing walang mangyari tulad ng nangyari sa ibang may oil spill na hindi nakasuhan ‘yung may-ari ng barko,” Cruz said.

(I don't want that nothing will happen like in past cases of oil spills where no charges were filed against the owners of the ships involved.) 

“It doesn’t mean naman na ‘yung evidences ay nandiyan na. We will file a case. Number one po ‘yun, to file a case against them kung hindi talaga sila okay,” she added.

(It doesn't mean that the evidence is already there, but we will file a case. The number one agenda item is to file a case against them if they're really not okay.)

The Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) was conducting an aerial inspection and assisting the concerned agencies and local government units (LGUs) to contain the oil spill off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, according to OCD Joint Information Center head Diego Agustin Mariano on Thursday.

"Ang containment naman po ng mga langis sa karagatan pinangungunahan ng Philippine Coast Guard at dito sa OCD tinutulungan natin silang maprovidan ng mga karampatang equipment o gamit para magawa nila itong cleanup," Mariano said at the public briefing.

(The PCG spearheads the mitigation measures to contain the spread of oil in the sea, while the OCD helps them and provides the appropriate equipment or tools so that they can conduct cleanup activities.)

"Binibigyan natin sila ng PPEs (personal protective equipment), mga absorbent pads, at tinulungan din natin ang mga LGUs maka-acquire ng dayami, ng mga abaca ropes, at iba pang pansala o panghigop sa langis," he added.

(We provide them with PPEs and absorbent pads, and we also help the LGUs acquire abaca ropes and other filters or oil absorbents.)

He also said some LGUs placed oil booms and absorbent pads around two kilometers away from the shoreline. 

The tanker, MT Princess Empress, sank on February 28 while carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel. Oil spills were reported in several areas in Mindoro, prompting the coastal town of Pola to declare a state of calamity.

Cruz said that more than 50 Pola residents have now gotten sick.

DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said Tuesday that some residents have reported headaches and dizziness, while one was admitted to a hospital due to aggravated asthma, following the oil spill.

Vergeire advised people residing within 100 meters of the affected areas not to drink water from their own sources and instead drink those supplied by the local government.

They should also wear industrial masks, not just regular face masks, while the elderly and those with lung conditions should be relocated.

Cruz said on Wednesday that an expert estimated that it would take six months to a year to finish the cleanup.  —with Richa Noriega/KBK/VBL, GMA Integrated News