MANILA, Philippines – The United States Coast Guard (USCG) will address the country’s ongoing operation to contain the massive oil spill from the MT Princess Empress sunk off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, during a a meeting with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) scheduled today.
PCG spokesman Rear Admiral Armand Balilo confirmed yesterday that USCG officials are set to pay a courtesy visit to Admiral Artemio Abu, during which the PCG will make a presentation on the Philippines’ response to the oil spill.
“We would just do a presentation and there would be an executive briefing. They (the USCG and Abu) would be briefed on the situation,” Balilo said, adding that nothing is certain yet on “what topics they would discuss.”
Earlier, Abu had written to the US Embassy asking for help in cleaning up the oil spill.
“It will be up to the US Coast Guard how they respond to the commander’s request – whether they will respond immediately and what kind of assistance they could provide,” Balilo said. “What’s important is that they know the situation in the area.”
At present, while there are oil spill booms in the vicinity of Pola, Oriental Mindoro, where the oil slick from the motor tanker has drifted, these are being removed in the evening, the PCG spokesman said.
Scroll to continue
Once the oil spill booms are removed, it creates the possibility that oil could reach the shore, he said.
He explained that the booms were put in place by the company MT Princess Empress, RDC Reield Marine Services, and they also hired tugboats to keep the booms in place.
But there are limits. At night, the waves get bigger and the tugs have to leave the area. If there are no tugs to hold the booms in place, they would drift out to sea.
The PCG is there to help with the cleanup and does not have large oil spill booms that could have prevented the oil from crossing and reaching the shores.
Balilo hopes the arrival of the remotely operated vessel (ROV) from Japan will solve the problem.
“From what I heard from the owner of the vessel, the ROV has the ability to siphon so it can siphon oil from the water,” he said.
The Princess Empress is believed to have been carrying 900,000 liters of industrial oil when it sank on February 28 some 400 meters deep in the waters off the town of Naujan.
Fish supply will be affected – expert
An expert from the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) yesterday warned that the country’s fish supply would be affected once the oil slick reaches Verde Island Passage (VIP). .
In a radio interview, UP-MSI associate professor Irene Rodriguez said that based on the trajectory of the spill, the oil slick is heading north, with Calapan possibly receiving the major party from March 20 to 22.
“Based on our observations of the extent of the oil slick, the tanker continues to spill oil,” Rodriguez said, adding that as the amihan weakens, water currents would move the slick. oil to Calapan and Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro and the shores of Batangas.
She said that once the oil slick reaches VIP – the body of water between the two provinces – it will immediately lead to the death of marine resources on the surface of the water, including eggs, juveniles and fish. other organizations.
“For the long term impact, if oil contaminates the Verde Island Passage, it will impact the food source and diversity in the area as the (VIP) is called the center of the center of biodiversity Marine. As a hub, all of the marine resources in Verde Island Passage are concentrated and very important to our food source and the livelihoods of affected residents,” Rodriguez added.
UP-MSI said damage from the oil spill could affect endemic species found only in the Philippines as well as species yet to be discovered.
“More than the food source, the population decline of marine resources can affect the ecosystem that provides breeding ground, nursery and habitat for marine organisms,” she noted.
Rodriguez said the use of a remote-operated vehicle is crucial to ultimately stopping the leak and sealing the sunken vessel.
“It has been over two weeks and it is now March 19. We still have a window of opportunity as we are at the end of the amihan. We should take advantage of it while the area is still quiet. We must do everything we can to control the spread of the oil slick,” Rodriguez said.
She also suggested that the government ban all ships carrying oil from passing the VIP to protect the area.
“Large vessels should avoid Verde Island Passage and instead use the western side of Occidental Mindoro. Although it is a longer route, it is safer. Crew members should also be trained on how to handle such situations,” she said.
Based on the latest UP-MSI bulletin, westerly currents along the northern coast of Mindoro towards the VIP are expected to be more pronounced.
“Come to Court”
In Pola, Mayor Jennifer Cruz said yesterday that she was determined to press charges against the owners of the sunken ship for the destruction caused by the oil slick to her municipality.
“We’ll see them in court,” Cruz said in a radio interview, noting that Pola didn’t even receive compensation from the owners of the MT Princess Empress 20 days after the sinking and oil spill.
“There isn’t,” Cruz replied when asked if any form of compensation had been given by the owners of the ship to the town affected by the oil spill. “So far I haven’t seen them yet,” she added.
The mayor revealed that the Ministry of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation are already busy building a case. “The DOJ and the NBI are leading the investigation so that justice can be done for our city by filing a lawsuit against them,” she said.
Cruz lamented the oil spill’s impact on Pola as having a domino effect. “Right now we are having more problems. It’s not just about food. Our problem is getting bigger, it has a domino effect as everyone is affected, including tourism and employment,” she said.
She stressed that long-term assistance should be given to fishermen displaced by the fishing ban. Pola has a total of 533 hectares of mangrove areas and a 50 kilometer coastline affected by the oil slick.
“We want alternative programs for our fishermen because experts have said the cleanup will last six months. This means that our fishermen will have no source of income. Alternative livelihood programs should be offered to affected residents,” Cruz said.
Villar: Insurance payment could be compromised
However, Senator Cynthia Villar has said the company that owns the ill-fated Princess Empress may not be able to secure the insurance it urgently needs to compensate both local government units and families affected by the tide. black.
The Senate Environment Committee, chaired by Villar, launched an investigation last week into the sinking of the tanker which is now causing an environmental disaster.
During the hearing, officials from the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and the PCG admitted that RDC Reield Maritime Services did not have an up-to-date Certificate of Public Utility (CPC), which is one of the requirements for these vessels to navigate.
“Certainly (DRC) must pay compensation but the problem is that it is a small company. Even if they give all their resources, it will not be enough. The damage amounts to billions (of pesos)”, has said Villar, speaking in Filipino, on dzBB radio yesterday.
“There is damage to our coral reefs, to our environment, it’s huge. I don’t think they can survive and go bankrupt if they don’t have insurance,” he said. – she said, adding that the committee will verify information that the insurer has an office in the country.
The senator said that if the insurance company is “nice, maybe they will pay but depending on experience”, these companies find every possible way not to pay their customers.
Reports say DRC leaders have assured provincial officials they have around $1 billion in insurance, but senators are skeptical due to the company’s lack of CPC for the sunken tanker.
The company has a CPC, but the regulations require that it be changed to reflect the acquisition of a new vessel. The Princess Empress was acquired last November and the company filed an amended CPC application in December, but MARINA officials told the hearing the paperwork was still being processed when the incident occurred. . –Bella Cariaso, Paolo Romero