Villar: MT Princess Empress owner must prove vessel's seaworthiness

RDC Reield Marine Services Inc., owner of the ill-fated MT Princess Empress that sank and spilled industrial oil in the waters off Oriental Mindoro, will be made to explain the seaworthiness of the vessel.

‘’Eh di kapag nag-hearing tayo i-defend nila at kukuha rin expert na makakapagsabi na di fit (They will have to defend that the vessel was fit but we will get an expert who will say that it was not fit). Mag iimbita kami ng expert who can be a judge (The expert we will invite can be a judge),’’ Senator Cynthia Villar said.

There are reports that the tanker that sank off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, last Feb. 28, was a refurbished, aging vessel.

Villar, chairperson of the Senate Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change Committee, said she would look into this when her committee resumes its public hearing on the matter. No date has been set yet.

The lady senator says finger-pointing between the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), the country’s maritime regulator; and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on who is at fault for the environmental tragedy is ‘’documented".

Marina had claimed that RDC had no permit to sail, but that it had filed an amended certificate of public conveyance (CPC). However, it was not acted upon at the time. 

The PCG had earlier posted documents online seeking to discredit the Marina chief’s statements.

The PCG on Tuesday night, March 14, shared on social media six pages of the CPC supposedly issued by Marina to RDC.

Marina’s mandate is to “lead a progressive maritime administration for safer people, safer ships, and cleaner environment".

Asked on who should be blamed, Villar pointed out that both Marina and PCG are both regulatory bodies.

Viilar said she has asked the committee to determine the liability of the tanker owner because she could not see it in the law. 

She said one of her committee proposals is to make the liability of the tanker owner clearer.

Because of the issue of MT Princess Empress supposedly not having an amended CPC, the reported $1-billion insurance of RDC might not be easily collected," Villlar had said.