Oriental Mindoro oil spill now affecting tourist spots—DOT

At a glance

  • (Photo courtesy of the DENR)

Tourist destinations in Oriental Mindoro and nearby provinces are now affected by the oil spill caused by sinking of the motor tanker (MT) Princess Empress, the Department of Tourism (DOT) disclosed on Monday, March 6.

Tourism Secretary Christina G. Frasco ordered the DOT Regional Offices in MIMAROPA and Western Visayas to closely monitor the situation and coordinate with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and concerned local government units (LGUs) following the PCG report last Feb. 28 about the oil spill from MT Princess Empress which capsized the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro and was reportedly carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil as cargo.

Based on the information gathered by the agency, the oil spill has affected several Marine Protected Areas in the Municipality of Pola in Oriental Mindoro, such as the KingFisher Reserve, St. John the Baptist Marine Sanctuary, Song of the Sea Fish Sanctuary, Stella Mariz Fish Sanctuary, Bacawan Fish Sanctuary, St. Peter the Rock Fish Sanctuary, and the San Isidro Labrador Fish Sanctuary.

Beach resorts such as Bihiya Beach, 3 Cottage, Long Beach K. I, Aguada Beach Resort, Oloroso Beach Resort, Munting Buhangin Tagumpay Beach Resort, and Buhay na Tubig White Beach Resort in Oriental Mindoro have also been affected.

To address this problem, coastal clean-up is now being done in the affected areas as an immediate solution to prevent further damage.

"The DOT notes with seriousness the oil spill incident and its grave impact on the tourism industry, including disruptions in the livelihood of the affected communities, tourism-dependent businesses, and recreational activities," Frasco said.

"Scuba diving, beach, and cruise tourism depend on the region’s coastal resources, and are also its major tourism products. If unmitigated, the oil spill can have adverse impacts on three of the world-class dive destinations in the Philippines, specifically the Verde Island passage and Apo Reef in Mindoro, and Coron’s World War II Wrecks and Philippine Dugong," she went on.

The effects of the oil spill have also reached the Municipality of Caluya in the Province of Antique, particularly along the shorelines of Sitio Sabang, Barangay Tinogbo, Liwagao Island, Barangay Sibolo, and Sitio Tambak in Barangay Semirara. At present, none of the tourist attractions in these areas have been affected, but the LGUs, together with the PCG, have been conducting clean-ups, with the support from the private sector who provided personal protective equipment.

The Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan is preparing, as well, for the possibility of the effects of the oil spill reaching its area of jurisdiction. The PCG and the Malay Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office are continuously conducting roving and monitoring along the coasts of Boracay, and have prepositioned oil slick booms in strategic areas around the island in anticipation of the oil spills.

The DOT Western Visayas Office is also actively coordinating with the LGU of Malay in terms of extending possible assistance to tourists in Boracay in case the spillage reaches the island’s coastal area, and has likewise issued advisories on the areas affected by the oil spill.

Frasco added that cruise tourism  in the region could also be affected; with 34 cruise ships expected to call in Mindoro, Romblon, Marinduque, and Palawan for the year.

"The DOT, in coordination with its regional offices, commits to continuously coordinate with agencies such as the DENR, EMB, PCG, and concerned LGUs on any update concerning the oil spill, and in searching for urgent mitigating measures to address the harmful effects of the incident to marine life, world-class dive sites, and tourist attractions," the tourism secretary assured.

Meanwhile, the DOT noted that none of the tourist attractions in the municipalities of Naujan, Victoria, and Pinamalayan in Oriental Mindoro have been affected by the oil spill, as of press time. The Naujan Lake, a major tourist attraction, has no connection with the ocean and will not be affected by the oil spill.

The DOT is also in close coordination with officers of the Tubbataha Management Office who are monitoring the situation in Tubbataha Reef, which is along the Municipality of Cagayancillo in Palawan. Based on the latest update, there are no reported effects yet of the oil spill in the area.