LAWMAKERS in both chambers of Congress have called for separate inquiries to assess the impact of an 800,000-liter oil spill incident in Mindoro that threatens livelihood, marine biodiversity and tourism.
Senator Francis N. Tolentino, in a statement on Tuesday, noted that the oil coming from the sunken tanker MT Princess Empress has reached major fishing areas and continues to spread to coastal communities.
“Today, 18,000 fishermen lost their livelihood. If we fail to contain the oil spill, it will affect thousands more,” he said.
The vessel sank near the Verde Island Passage, considered a global center of marine shore fish biodiversity, and marine experts estimate that up to 20,000 hectares of coral reefs, 9,900 hectares of mangroves, and 6,000 hectares of seagrass may be affected.
The oil spill could also reach tourism areas in Western Visayas, which covers popular island destination Boracay, and Palawan.
Tourism Secretary Maria Esperanza Christina G. Frasco on Monday warned of the potential impact on the industry.
“The DoT (Department of Tourism) 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,” she said.
As of Tuesday 77 coastal villages across nine towns in Oriental Mindoro have been placed under a state of calamity, based on a provincial resolution.
At the House of Representatives, Cavite Rep. Elpidio F. Barzaga Jr., chair of the natural resources committee, filed House Resolution No. 829 to investigate the incident.
“We’ll find out during the investigation if the evidence will warrant the filing of appropriate charges,” Mr. Barzaga said in a Viber chat.
The tanker was ferrying industrial fuel from Lamay, Bataan in the north to Iloilo in western-central Philippines.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced on Monday that efforts are underway to confirm the location of the sunken vessel off the coast of Pola town in Oriental Mindoro.
Once located, experts will be able to map out the spill’s potential movement and draw up a mitigation plan.
Meanwhile, multi-agency response measures are continuing to clean up the oil spill, reduce its impact, and assist affected communities. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and Beatriz Marie D. Cruz