The Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Thursday urged that fishing bans be kept in several areas affected by the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro.
In a statement, DA-BFAR on Thursday said the water samples collected and analyzed from the affected municipalities of Bansud, Bongabong, Bulalacao, Calapan, Gloria, Mansalay, Naujan, Pinamalayan, Pola, and Roxas in Oriental Mindoro and Caluya in Antique from March 9 to 12 showed minimal amounts of oil and grease within the standard stated by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under Administrative Order 2016-08 for fishing areas.
"The Bureau recommends keeping fishing bans in these municipalities since the initial analyses are not yet conclusive evidence as far as food safety is concerned," DA-BFAR said.
Meanwhile, the fish samples collected and analyzed from the same areas on March 4 to 5 showed low-level contaminants or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which is harmful to humans and other living organisms and may accumulate in the flesh of marine organisms over time.
DA-BFAR noted that the samples were collected during the early days of March, making the current situation unknown due to the possibility that the spill had spread further due to ocean currents and wind direction and more PAHs may have accumulated in marine organisms.
Moreover, BFAR said it will continuously examine water and fish samples in affected areas to monitor the possible spread of contamination and determine the extent of damage caused by the oil spill in the fishery sector and public consumption.
The DA-BFAR has allocated P4.4 million worth of livelihood assistance in post-harvest technology packages, benefiting ten fisherfolk associations and cooperatives or 689 families. Over P1.5 million was also earmarked for food assistance to 5,000 affected fisherfolk in MIMAROPA, while P580,500 was spent to help displaced fishing groups in Western Visayas.
The Bureau has also deployed monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) vessels, PPE sets, and other materials for clean-up activities, while additional interventions are also being prepositioned based on rehabilitation proposals from the oil spill-hit areas.
The vessel MT Princess Empress sank off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro on February 28, carrying around 900,000 liters of industrial oil. The oil that has leaked from the shipwreck has covered an area almost the size of Quezon City, with an estimated 300,000 liters still left in the vessel. — Sherylin Untalan/BM, GMA Integrated News