Sustained probe, effective containment measures sought as Oriental Mindoro oil spill reaches Batangas

At a glance

  • (Photos courtesy of the DENR)

Following reports that the Oriental Mindoro oil spill has reached Batangas City, environmentalists, lawyers, and fisherfolk are seeking for a "sustained investigation" and "immediate and effective measures" to contain the oil slicks.

Oceana Philippines, Greenpeace Philippines, and the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) issued a statement during a recent public forum, warning of the continued spread of oil slicks from the sunken motor tanker (MT) Princess Empress, which reportedly reached Isla Verde, Batangas City.

On Feb. 28, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported an oil spill from the MT Princess Empress, which had capsized earlier that day off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, and was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil as cargo.

To date, country’s fisheries sector has been losing P5 million a day as 19,000 fishermen were prohibited to go fishing in oil spill-affected areas, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

“Immediately contain and remove the oil spill, with full transparency on the status of containment and removal towards affected communities and the Filipino public, and streamlined leadership in overall disaster risk reduction and management efforts," the groups called.

"We have yet to see decisive leadership on the necessary steps among concerned national government agencies," the group called, adding that “a next hearing has yet to be called for by Congress.”

In a separate statement issued during the public forum, 90 lawyers from across the Philippines urged for a "thorough investigation.”

"We demand a thorough investigation into this disaster and hold accountable those responsible, including those in agencies who were in dereliction of their duties. There should be transparency and strict accountability in the conduct of the impartial investigation and full disclosure of parties involved in this mess," the statement noted.

Meanwhile, fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) stressed that "expedite efforts" are needed to prevent the oil spill from further ravaging marine resources that could pose long-term ecological disaster, raising alarm on the oil slicks reaching Isla Verde.

“The Verde Island Passage is a highly productive fisheries corridor. Hundreds of thousands of fisherfolk from its littoral provinces rely on its abundant and pristine marine resources. The oil spill reaching one of the country’s significant ecosystems should highly alarm the government and compel them to undertake decisive and effective measures to prevent further ecological damages,” Pamalakaya Chairperson Fernando Hicap said in a statement.

As such, the fisherfolk group called for a "transparent investigation" on the incident.

"We demand a thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation of this seemingly avoidable ecological nightmare,” Hicap expressed.

Pamalakaya said it is closely coordinating with the fishing communities, as well as the stakeholders and environmentalists, to promote the protection of Isla Verde to "thoroughly assess the impacts of the oil spill to marine resources and socio-economic rights."

On March 21, the BFAR disclosed that it found polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which are low-level contaminants, in fish samples from the oil spill-affected areas of Oriental Mindoro.

It noted that PAH is “harmful to humans and other living organisms,” adding that it may accumulate in the flesh of fish over time.

With this, the bureau recommended that fishing operations in the oil spill-affected locations in Oriental Mindoro be permanently suspended for the sake of public safety.