GREENPEACE Philippines on Thursday urged the government of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to ensure transparency on the real extent of the oil spill off the province of Oriental Mindoro south of the Philippine capital and its effect on communities.
“We need the utmost transparency from the government on the real extent of the spill and its impact,” Jefferson M. Chua, campaigner at the environmental group, told a virtual news briefing. “We also need transparency in terms of efforts being made, to make these companies involved provide the immediate redress to communities.”
Japan has sent a team of experts who will advise the Philippines on the cleanup of an oil spill off the coast of Oriental Mindoro Province that threatens tens of thousands of hectares of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass, not to mention residents of the area.
The Japan Disaster Relief Expert Team would be sent “on humanitarian grounds and for marine environment conservation,” the Japanese Embassy in Manila said in a statement on Thursday.
“Japan hopes that this assistance contributes to the prevention of further marine contamination and to the restoration of the marine environment, and intends to continue working closely with the Philippines,” it said.
Mr. Marcos on Wednesday said the government aims to clean up the 800,000-liter oil spill from a tanker that sank in the waters of Naujan in Oriental Mindoro last week in less than four months.
MT Princess Empress was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it sank off Oriental Mindoro, one of the five provinces surrounding the Verde Island Passage, one of the world’s most diverse marine habitats.
Marine experts estimate that as many as 20,000 hectares of coral reefs, 9,900 hectares of mangroves and 6,000 hectares of seagrass could have been affected by the spill.
Senators and congressmen have called for separate investigations of the incident, which prompted the province to place nearly 80 coastal villages in nine towns under a state of calamity.
Mr. Marcos said the government had tapped local fishermen who were temporarily banned from sailing to help the government in the cleanup drive.
“We are monitoring the situation closely,” he said, adding that the government is working with the private sector and Japan to address the issue.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has said about 11,000 fisherfolk families were affected by the oil spill.
“The only way to know the size of this oil spill is through sampling and accurate and timely reporting by government authorities and the vigilance of communities,” Mr. Chua said.
Mary Jean N. Te, mayor of the town of Libertad in the province of Antique, said they were afraid that the oil spill could reach their shores especially as the harvest season for yellowfin tuna starts. “We have the biggest number of mangroves, and we have a well-managed coastal resource,” she told the briefing.
Ram Joseph D. Temeña of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office in Oriental Mindoro said at least 19,556 families from nine of 15 municipalities were affected by the oil slick.
Eighteen residents from the village of Buhay na Tubig in Pola also got sick after inhaling emission from the spill.
Meanwhile, publicly listed Harbor Star Shipping Services, Inc. said it would help in the cleanup drive.
In a stock exchange filing, the company said that it had secured a contract with RDC Reield Marine Services, Inc., which owns the sunken vessel, and would deploy manpower and resources for the operation.
The Philippine Coast Guard, several local governments and other agencies have approved the contract, the company said.
MT Princess Empress has protection and indemnity insurance, which includes coverage for the oil spill, according to the disclosure. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera