MT Princess Empress oil spill poses major health threat, expert warns

At a glance

  • The massive oil spill from the MT Princess Empress tanker could cause harm or sickness to affected residents, a Filipino health expert stressed.

  • Photo courtesy of the Philippine Coast Guard

A health expert labeled the massive oil spill incident following the sinking of the MT Princess Empress tanker in Oriental Mindoro as a major threat to public health.

Health Reform Advocate Dr. Anthony “Tony” Leachon in an interview over DZRH on Monday, March 20, expressed the need to quickly address the Mindoro oil spill, reiterating that this could cause illness to residents living near the oil spill-affected areas.

“[May] ill effects ito sa katawan. Ang una n’yan ay [maaaring maapektuhan] ang baga, skin, at puso. Halos lahat ay apektado dito dahil papasok ‘yan sa inyong sistema. Ang iba ay nagkakaroon ng chronic lung disease at nagkaka-cancer (It has ill effects to the body. It can affect the lungs, skin, and heart. Almost everyone may be affected by it because it enters your system. Others develop chronic lung disease and some cancer),” said Leachon.

The MT Princess Empress oil tanker sank on Feb. 28. It was carrying at least 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil according to the Philippine Coast Guard. Latest data from the national government showed that 149,503 persons or 32,269 families in three Philippine provinces have been affected by the unfortunate incident.

Three weeks after the reported sinking, Leachon lamented the government’s "poor response" to solve the situation.

“122 [na ang naireport na may sakit] sa Oriental Mindoro [dulot ng oil spill] at mag iincrease ‘yan day by day. Yung interest dito ay hindi kasing igting ng mga nakalipas na disaster (Due to the oil spill, 122 individuals were reported sick in Oriental Mindoro and that will increase day by day. The interest here is not as intense as in past disasters),” he added.

Local government units (LGUs) of affected areas were advised to establish a “registry” or documentation of ill effects experienced by residents.