The oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress has reached Calapan City, according to Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor on Friday.
“Kagabi po kinumpirma ko po yan, 9:58 ng gabi, officially nilabas namin yung confirmation. Mga 500 meters po ang haba sa shoreline,” he told Dobol B TV.
(Last night I confirmed that and we released the official confirmation at 9:58 p.m. The length of the oil slick on the shoreline was around 500 meters.)
He said this is consistent with the projection of the UP Marine Science Institute (UPMSI) that the oil spill might reach the northern part of Mindoro if the Amihan or Northeast Monsoon continues to weaken.
According to Dolor, responders already placed spill booms in parts of the river to prevent the oil spill from contaminating freshwater.
Dolor said the oil spill has affected the livelihood of residents in the area as they are now struggling financially.
He said a 45-day cash for work program will be offered to affected workers.
Call for Intervention
Meanwhile, advocate group Protect Verde Island Passage (VIP) called on President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to intervene and order relevant government agencies to pour all efforts to contain the oil spill.
“The only way to achieve the president’s hope to clean up the oil spill in four months is to compel government agencies to direct all resources for containment,” Protect VIP Convenor Fr. Edwin Gariguez said in a statement.
“We are also in support of the consensus raised during the Senate hearing for the need to assign an oil spill response chief. Mr. President, the VIP is a crucial contributor to the Philippine economy. You must move now,” he added.
Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) executive director Gerry Arances said not only fishermen but also barangays depend on the seas to bring in money for trade, transport, and tourism.
The fishing sector in the VIP area, which includes Oriental Mindoro was valued at ?11.8 billion in 2021 while in its tourism industry generated ?3.5 billion in 2019, he said.
“There must be decisive action to minimize the impact and demand accountability from the charterer and ship owner which seems to be heading towards a bailout based on how the Senate hearing last week went,” Arances said.
For Gariguez, the government is not moving fast enough considering that half a month has passed already but “the deployment of a remote operating vehicle (ROV) will not arrive until next week”.
“In the short term, we need to identify who would compensate the affected residents and pay for the environmental damage to VIP,” he said.
“In the long run, our policymakers should not just look at oil spills from sunken ships, but also how to minimize the traffic of ships carrying poisonous cargo through this vulnerable area,” he added.
The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) on Wednesday said a total of 31,497 families in MIMAROPA and Western Visayas were affected by the oil spill.
The livelihood of 13,654 farmers and fishermen was also affected.
Department of National Defense chief Carlito Galvez Jr. on Thursday said at least 169 individuals were reported to have been injured or fell ill due to the oil spill.
On February 28, MT Princess Empress sank due to strong waves. All 20 people on board were rescued. It was carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel.
The motor tanker sank 400 meters into the ocean, which was too deep for divers to reach, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.
Dolor earlier said that initially only 13 out of the 77 areas placed under state of calamity have direct contact with the spill.
On Thursday, the Justice Department said an investigation is already underway and they are already looking at filing possible charges in relation to the oil spill. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla also disclosed that vessel was "really old" and was not really built to be a tanker. The vessel was described as "rebuilt scrap." —VAL, GMA Integrated News