BATAAN, Philippines – A month after the sinking of MT Princess Empress, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) president and CEO Ramon Ang finally made a statement on reports that one of the conglomerate’s subsidiaries was the charterer of the oil tanker that sank off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro on February 28.
In a chance interview in Limay, Bataan, Ang, the Philippines’ 9th richest person, neither confirmed nor denied a Rappler story that one of the conglomerate’s subsidiaries, SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation, chartered RDC Reield Marine Services to ship over 800,000 liters of oil to Iloilo.
“Ay, yung barko (Oh, that ship), we are one of the clients of that vessel, I don’t want to name the other companies. There are several companies that that company is supposed to deliver oil to, not only us,” he said when asked if an SMC subsidiary was the charterer.
Ang was referring to RDC Reield Marine Services (RDC), the shipping company that owns MT Princess Empress which is 400 meters deep in the sea off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.
There were no follow-up questions related to this to Ang, who entertained questions for around four minutes only mostly about the renewable energy project of San Miguel Global Power Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) in Barangay Lamao, Limay, Bataan that was inaugurated on Friday.
The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) have only disclosed that MT Princess Empress left the private port, SL Harbor Terminal, located in Limay, Bataan, but not the company that chartered the vessel. It was bound for Iloilo but encountered big waves and strong winds in the morning and sank later that day, causing an environmental disaster in parts of southern Luzon.
RDC has declined to comment on the charterer, citing its non-disclosure agreement.
Environmental groups on March 28 reiterated their earlier call for transparency and accountability from government agencies and private companies related to the oil spill.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is working on the assumption that more than half of the 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil or “black oil” on MT Princess Empress has leaked, Coast Guard spokesman Rear Admiral Armand Balilo said early this week.
Marcos praises Ang
In his speech at the inauguration of the BESS project, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. described Ang as his “friend” and the tycoon’s company as the country’s long-time partner in development.
He said the diversified conglomerate, at over 130 years old, “certainly shows no sign of aging” and remains a leader in the various sectors it is involved in, especially in the food business through San Miguel Food and Beverage.
He said SMC “remains as competitive and vibrant as ever,” adding that Ang “deserves a round of applause.”
“As the immortal line goes, iba na yung may pinagsamahan (We’re in this together),” the president said.
Meantime, victims of the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro began getting and filling up their claims forms on Friday, March 31, in the provincial capitol.
“Claims Caravan forms are currently being accepted at the Hall inside the Capitol. Once again as a clarification, first, it is not necessary to go to Calapan. Claims Caravan will also open in different towns and Barangays. Secondly, it is not mandatory, the submission of the Claims Form is voluntary,” said Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor said in his post.
France sends expert
The French embassy in Manila said on Friday that France financed the visit of a French expert, Mikaël Laurent, to support the oil spill response operations.
Laurent was in the Philippines from March 16 to 29 on behalf of the Cedre or Center for Documentation, Research and Experimenttion on Accidental Water Pollution based in France. He provided advice on clean-up operations, particularly on deployment of oil containment booms and recovery of pollutants, which improved the speed of pumping pollutants on board two tugs deployed in Oriental Mindoro, the embassy said.
In a statement posted on Friday, shipowner RDC said operations continue to collect oil emerging to the surface from the sunken vessel.
“Joint shoreline surveys between the various authorities, international experts and clean-up contractors now focus across Oriental Mindoro in areas identified as at risk of contamination. Surveys are supported by US government observers from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who are monitoring the clean-up efforts,” the company said.
“In Oriental Mindoro, shoreside cleanup with high-volume flushing and high-pressure washing of affected areas is ongoing, with temporary waste storage sites being established to allow the safe and secure collation of waste before it is shipped for disposal. In Semirara, work crews are cleaning stretches of affected shorelines as part of the ongoing cleanup efforts,” it added. – with Lance Yu/Rappler.com
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