MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – At least 500,000 liters of oil continue to spread in 12 coastal barangays in Rosario, Tanza, and Naic in Cavite after an oil spill in Manila Bay, said the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Friday, August 9.
“There have been reports of cases of people going to hospital from difficulty of breathing due to the fumes coming from this oil,” according to PCG environmental protection chief Commodore Joel Garcia.
Later in the day, the town of Rosario was put under a state of emergency, a Solar News report said.
Though the source of the spill is still being investigated, PCG found that oil from the affected barangays and shoreline is “quite identical” to the oil inside oil tanker M/T Makisig, commissioned by oil giant Petron to transport fuel. The oil tanker is owned by Herma Shipping Transport Corp (HSTC).
PCG also pointed to a possible oil leak in one of Petron’s underwater pipelines.
Coast Guard divers are investigating the underwater pipeline leading from the tanker to the Petron oil depot for holes that could have led to the leak.
But Petron insisted its pipeline was intact and had no leaks, according to a statement it posted on social networking site Facebook.
Read: Dead fish after huge Manila Bay oil spill
PCG personnel and local government authorities are trying to contain the spill which has already spread across an area of 20 kilometers by 15 kilometers, said PCG spokesperson Armand Balilo.
They have opted to let the fuel evaporate instead of using chemical dispersants which may poison the water further, said Garcia.
Balilo says they also used booms or floating barriers to stop the oil from spreading. At 12nn on August 10, he said the situation was “improving” and that the suffocating stench of oil that plagued barangays for 6 to 8 hours on Friday has lessened.
But he could not say when the cleaning operations would be completed.
Oil on corals, fish
Oil sludge has already been found on coral reefs and fish caught by fishermen.
The barangays most affected by the oil spill are Wawa 1, Wawa 2, Wawa 3, Sapa 2 and 3, Muzon 1 and 2 and Kanluran, according to Rosario mayor Jose Ricafrente.
Asis Perez, head of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has banned the harvesting and sale of shellfish from these areas until further notice.
In an interview with dzMM, Rosario mayor Jose Ricafrente said that he is considering filing charges against whoever is proven responsible for the oil spill.
The 34,000-barrel-capacity M/T Makisig and its crew have been detained and its owners will be made to pay for the clean-up if it were proven that it caused the spill, said Garcia.
The tanker’s owners, Herma Shipping and Transport Corp, could not be reached for comment on August 9.
The tanker had earlier unloaded fuel at a Petron oil depot in Rosario, the oil refiner said in a statement.
“According to initial information, the leak may have come from the vessel but this will have to be investigated further,” Petron said in its first statement.
“Diesel is not a persistent oil and will easily disperse, so there is no danger to the environment and the local community,” it added.
The Department of Energy said in a statement that they are “in close coordination with Petron Corporation in addressing the oil spill.”
Petron also stated via Facebook that it would closely cooperate with local government authorities, PCG and other concerned groups to resolve the situation immediately.
In a statement, fisherfolk group Pamalakaya urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to probe deeper into Petron’s involvement in the oil spill. They said its oil depot in Rosario should be closed down for good to prevent another mishap. – With reports from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com
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