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BFAR estimates P388M in income loss due to Oriental Mindoro oil spill

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Wednesday said there is an estimated income loss amounting to P388 million in Oriental Mindoro due to the oil spill.

"As of April 3, ‘yung sa estimated income losses is around P388.7 million for Oriental Mindoro," Marc Lawrence Romero of BFAR said during the oil spill inter-agency committee meeting at the Department of Justice.

Romero, however, said they are still waiting for the completion of the analysis for contaminants in fish and other aquaculture species.

He said the first batch of the analysis showed traces of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the species collected, described by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as a "class of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline."

"So isa din ‘yun sa reason kung bakit may fishing ban. So we are still waiting for the rest of the analysis to get the bigger picture kasi ‘yung first batch collected was in the early part of the oil spill,” he said.

"So we don't know if the results will go up or will remain,” he added.

Meanwhile, Atty. Janice Regoso Pamit of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Pollution Adjudication Board said 92 out of 131 sampling stations still exceeded the water quality guidelines.

She said the DENR is still awaiting results for Region 4-A, specifically for Tinloy, Lobo, and Mabini in Batangas.

"Although for 4-B and Region 6, there are already identified violations and they were issued already the notice of violations and we are only awaiting for their — the submission of position papers. Tomorrow is the deadline of the filing of the position paper of the ship owner," Pamit said.

"And then after that, it will be formally endorsed to the Pollution Adjudication Board for the adjudication of the administrative penalties,” she added.

According to Pamit, an initial P20 million may be imposed as penalties against the owner of the sunken MT Princess Empress.

During the meeting, Consultant Leysander Ordones also showed pictures taken during the Holy Week on the effects of the oil spill on the environment.

He said the pictures were taken by volunteers nationwide.

However, Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu said these were “too alarming” and that these did not reflect the agency’s efforts on the ground.

"These are injustices to the people on the ground and of course the Coast Guard where we are doing our best to near continuously monitor the area and yet no report submitted to me at the headquarters na may ganoong severity of incident in whatever area it was taken," Abu said.

"So maganda po sana lagyan din natin ng time and date where the photo was taken. Because it does not reflect on what is really - the coast guard is really doing on the ground,” he added.

According to Justice Undersecretary Raul Vasquez, the DOJ invited the Shipowners Mutual Protection and Indemnity Association, the insurer of the MT Princess Empress, to the meeting, but they did not attend.

Due to this, Vasquez mulled sending a legal demand to the insurer.

"Maybe [the] Philippine Coast Guard and the DOJ, again with our conformity, will send a strongly worded, a more strongly worded, legal demand for them to act on this," he said.

For his part, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said they would give the shipowners' association one more chance.

"We’ll call them one more time, and if we have to make a formal inquiry and the inter-agency… then we will seek the president’s guidance if he wishes to issue an order for us to conduct a formal inquiry if it becomes necessary," he said in an ambush interview.

MT Princess Empress sank on February 28 off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro while carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel. —KBK/VBL, GMA Integrated News