Members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Friday conducted a simultaneous massive cleanup in areas affected by the oil spill from a sunken motor tanker in Oriental Mindoro, specifically Naujan and Pola.
According to PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armand Balilo, this was after Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu's order to "step up" the cleaning operations.
“Ito po ay nasimula kaninang umaga at magtatapos din ngayong araw na ito, sapagkat ang ibibigay na tanging ng Department of Health (DOH) ay halos dalawang oras lamang bawat isang tao ang itagal doon sa mga areas kung saan maglilinis sapagkat may hazard po sa kalusugan,” Balilo said in a public briefing.
(It started this morning and will end today because DOH only allowed each person two hours to stay in the area because it's a health hazard.)
“Pero dahil po sa maraming nagparticipate, malaki po yung na-accomplish kaninang umaga at magpapatuloy po ito ngayong tanghali,” he said.
(But since many people participated, we were able to accomplish a lot this morning and this afternoon.)
Balilo noted that the oil spill caused massive damage to a mangrove area and fish sanctuaries that is affecting residents' livelihood in Pola.
“Ang sabi po sa akin ng mga fishermen sa Pola, eh fishing season ngayon. Bukod sa tourism na dapat pagkakitaan nila, ang napakalaking bagay po na talagang nawala sa kanila ay yung mga isdang mahuhuli nila sana,” he said.
(It's fishing season. Aside from tourism, their livelihood is really affected.)
Meanwhile, Balilo said more help is expected to arrive as the Japanese oil removal and control experts are set to help in the operation today.
When asked if the vessel owner’s insurance provider’s offer to bring in a ship from China to plug the leak of the vessel is still an option for the PCG, he said “Opo, lahat po ng maaring makatulong po sa atin ay pinagaaralan natin at wala naman pong problema kung itong galing sa China sapagkat lahat po ng technology na maari nating i-apply, at eventually ay maalis itong langis ay magiging kapaki-pakinabang at tatanggapin po natin.”
(Yes, we need all the help we can get. It doesn't matter if it's from China. We may be able to use their technology to remove the oil, which will really help our cleanup operation.)
Balilo added that residents are still suffering from the effects of the oil, and they want to sue the vessel owner, who is responsible for the damage.
“Ito po ay laban nila para makalikom ng damages para managot po yung may-ari kung sakaling mapatunayan po kung merong criminal liability,” he said.
(This is their fight, so they can be compensated for the damage and for people who are responsible for it to be held liable.)
Meanwhile, the local government has also established a "Task Force Pola" to assist in the cleanup operations.
Balilo, however, said they still can't give a specific timeline when the oil spill will be thoroughly cleaned up, but President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has given the PCG a four-month timeline.
MT Princess Empress, which was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil, sank in heavy seas on February 28. All 20 people on board were rescued. —VAL, GMA Integrated News