Oriental Mindoro oil spill

Sunken oil tanker in Oriental Mindoro located

Dwight de Leon

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Sunken oil tanker in Oriental Mindoro located

OIL SPILL. A general view of the oil spill in the waters off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, March 1, 2023.

Philippine Coast Guard/Reuters

(1st UPDATE) Underwater robots are set to be deployed to help locate oil and determine the spill's impact

ORIENTAL MINDORO, Philippines – Oriental Mindoro Governor Bonz Dolor reported on Monday, March 6, that the exact location of the sunken MT Princess Empress has been found.

Dolor, citing Environment Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga, said the ship was spotted around 7.5 nautical miles from Balisangan Point facing the town of Pola.

The development came after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources deployed BRP Hydrographer Ventura and used its multi-beam survey to locate the sunken vessel.

“[Loyzaga] is going to see me tomorrow to analyze data of the exact location,” Dolor said.

Dolor said contractors hired by the company that owns the oil tanker have sought the provincial government’s help in expediting the processing of permits for remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) that will be used. 

The underwater robots, which are set to arrive within three to five days, can help locate oil and determine the spill’s impact.

Cleanup operations

The contractors that RDC Reield Marine Services hired are Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation and Harbor Star Shipping Services, two companies that helped in the cleanup of the 2006 Guimaras oil spill, considered to be the worst disaster of its kind in Philippine history.

Rodrigo Bella, vice president of Harbor Star, said his company’s role is to stop the leak of oil from the sunken vessel.

“The vessel has a mechanical ROV, ang capability ng ating ROV (the capability of our ROV) is 500 meters. This ROV has mechanical arms, it can close the valves if there are valves open on the ship, and hopefully, the situation in the ship will be manageable,” Bella explained.

“In case there’s remaining oil, there will be another level of response, which is another mechanical robot that can do the suction of the oil from the sunken vessel,” he added.

MT Princess Empress, which capsized on February 28 and fully sank after, was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial oil. Traces of bunker oil already reached shorelines in Oriental Mindoro, affecting nine towns. 

Fishermen’s livelihoods have been put on hold due to fishing bans, while more than 30 marine-protected areas now face heightened risks due to exposure to toxic chemicals. – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.