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BATANGAS, Philippines – Oil sludge from the capsized MT Princess Empress has reached the shores of Pola and Pinamalayan in Oriental Mindoro, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Southern Tagalog said on Thursday, March 2.
Even worse though, the vessel’s industrial oil cargo has also started to leak into waters off Naujan town, Mindoro Oriental, the PCG said.
The announcement raised fears among fisher groups and environmentalists of long-term damage to the lush maritime environment around Mindoro island.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) warned of threats to 21 protected areas.
At risk is the Verde Island Passage, a center of marine biodiversity, that links Mindoro to Batangas.
“Nakaabot na kaninang umaga ang oil spill sa dalampasigan ng dalawang karatig bayan ng Pola at Pinamalayan (This morning the oil spill has reached the shores of nearby towns Pola and Pinamalayan),” Coast Guard Commodore Innocencio Rosario Jr., Southern Tagalog commander, told Rappler. “We presume it is industrial fuel oil with its appearance of black sticky and strong odor.”
“Our troops from our (PCG) district stations here in Mindoro have documented the oil spill,” Rosario added.
He said the BRP Melchora Aquino, a PCG Vessel, deployed it’s Rigid Hull, MTUG Titan, to start the mechanical recovery of spilt oil in the vicinity waters off the submerged motor tanker for further assessment.
The PCG in Southern Tagalog has sent an augmentation request of forces from central headquarters, especially the Coast Guard Auxillary (Reserve).
“I already sent a request letter to the national headquarters for some forces from Coast Guard Auxillary to augment our personnel on anticipation for extensive effect of oil spill on water of Mindoro,” said Rosario.
He added that local government units in Oriental Mindoro had been informed of measures being taken to clean the spillage and the possible effects on the environment and livelihood.
PCG’s Marine Environment Protection Unit, the DENR’s Environment Protection Management Bureau, and Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation are coordinating to address the problem and consequences of the sea mishap.
The oil from the submerged vessel has spread across a 40-kilometer radius, an area encroaching on 21 protected areas, including a fish sanctuary.
Jay Lim of Tanggol Kalikasan, an environmental law group, also told Rappler the oil spill threatens all marine ecology, including coral reefs that serves fish sanctuaries.
“Kami ay nangangamba sa masamang kontribusyon ng oil spill sa karagatan na nakakaambag para masira ang mga marine ecology particular ang coral reef na nagsislbing pangitlugan ng mga isda.” Lim said. (We fear that the oil spill is contributing to the damage to the marine ecology, particularly to the coral reefs that serve as fish spawing ground.) – Rappler.com