Oil spill in Pasig River causes alarm

Paterno Esmaquel II
(UPDATED) Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim advises residents roused by foul odor to take necessary precautions, including evacuation, if needed

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim dispatched disaster officials past midnight Sunday, June 23, after an oil spill occurred in Sta Ana, Manila and roused residents due to a foul smell.

To assist affected residents, Lim, the city’s outgoing mayor whose term ends June 30, said the city government has also alerted hospitals for quick response. He advised residents to take necessary precautions, including evacuation, if needed.

Dahil oil spill ‘yan, ang akin lang masasabi ay mag-ingat lang sa pag-iitsa ng mga lighted cigarette. Baka mamaya magkaroon ng sunog sa Ilog Pasig. ‘Yan ang ingatan natin,” Lim said in an interview on dzMM past 1 am. (Because that’s an oil spill, what I can say is, be careful about throwing lighted cigarettes. These might ignite fire in the Pasig River. That’s what we should be cautious about.)

Lim’s chief of staff, Ric de Guzman, later said authorities have “definitely” identified the source of the oil spill.

In an interview at around 3:20 am, De Guzman told dzMM it likely came from a warehouse in Old Panaderos in Sta Ana. Inspecting the warehouse along with the police, he noted a busted pipe that appeared to have been repaired and covered with plastic.

The identity of the warehouse owner, however, remains unverified. He said no one was in the warehouse when authorities entered it.

For now, De Guzman said coast guard and maritime officers have tried to prevent the oil spill’s effects from worsening.

Local disaster chief Gilbert Celestino, who confirmed the oil spill earlier on Sunday, said it happened near Unioil in Sta Ana. Based on initial reports gathered by Celestino, the oil spilled from a barge on its way to a gas station. It contaminated water in the Pasig River.

Residents worried

Celestino clarified this is far from the major oil depot in Pandacan, Manila.

Huwag po sanang basta basta mabahala, kasi hindi po ito isang gas leak. Isa po itong oil spill,” he said in a dzMM interview. (Let’s avoid unnecessary worry, because this is not a gas leak. This is an oil spill.)

He confirmed, however, that the foul smell has reached areas such as UN Avenue and Pandacan, Manila.

On Twitter, netizens complained of foul smell, worrying about their safety.

Celestino said the city government is ready to assist affected residents. “Kung kinakailangan po nating maglikas, maglilikas po tayo. Pero in the meantime po magbibigay po tayo ng gamot,” he said. (If we need to evacuate people, we will evacuate them. But in the meantime we will distribute medicines.)  

He said the government is distributing antibiotics and gas masks to affected residents. It has also put ambulances on standby. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.