Oriental Mindoro oil spill

Princess Empress still leaking oil: DENR, DOH warn vs swimming in parts of Puerto Galera

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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Princess Empress still leaking oil: DENR, DOH warn vs swimming in parts of Puerto Galera

Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco goes diving in La Laguna Point in Puerto Galera, April 12, 2023

The public advisory comes days after Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco went diving in Lalaguna Point, one of the areas tested for oil contamination

MANILA, Philippines – Oil continues to leak from the sunken MT Princess Empress as the remaining black oil from the vessels tanks has not been siphoned, an environment official said on Wednesday, April 19. 

In an interview with radio DZBB, Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said they still cannot finalize plans for the rehabilitation of the affected areas since industrial fuel oil (IFO) continues to leak from the tanker. 

He said the equipment that can siphon the remaining oil from the tanker is not yet in the Philippines.

On Tuesday, April 18, Environment Secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said in a Palace briefing she hopes the leak can be controlled within this month. 

“What we would like to say is at this point let’s take a look, hopefully within the month or so the leakage will probably be contained definitely and we will actually be able to say what kind of damage has been incurred in the ecosystems that are submerged in the water,” she said. 

The oil tanker was carrying 800,000 liters of IFO when it sank on February 28 off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, prompting authorities to impose a ban on fishing and swimming activities in large parts of the province. 

Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor said in a press briefing on Tuesday that out of the 22 tanks filled with IFO, three tanks were still leaking black oil. Eleven tanks have been successfully “bagged,” thus mitigating the leak, he added. The rest were believed to be already empty.

No swimming in many areas

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said only nine out of 35 sampling stations in the municipality of Puerto Galera and its barangays passed the DENR’s surface water quality standards. 

The nine areas which met the quality standards on oil and grease contaminants are:

  • Small Lalaguna Shoreline
  • Big Lalaguna Shoreline
  • Balete
  • Central Sabang Shoreline
  • Coco Beach
  • Batangas Channel
  • Paniquian
  • Balatero
  • West San Isidro Bay

DOH Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Maria Rosario Vergeire urged the public to avoid “occupational and recreational activities” in the 26 other areas in Puerto Galera’s waters with high levels of oil and grease.

Among the areas in Puerto Galera’s waters which failed are: 

  • Villaflor shoreline
  • Dulangan shoreline
  • Tabinay Marine Protected Area
  • Balete Shoreline
  • Dungon Beach
  • Sabang Point
  • East of Sabang
  • Pier 
  • Control Point
  • West Sabang shoreline
  • Small Lalaguna
  • Big Lalaguna
  • Big Lalaguna shoreline
  • East of Coco Beach
  • Batangas Channel
  • Sabang Central
  • Asinan Cove
  • Muelle Pier
  • Boquete
  • Balatero
  • Central San Isidro
  • Aninuan
  • San Isidro Bay offshore
  • Sabang offshore

The DOH and DENR said exposure to oil and grease poses health hazards and “may cause various skin diseases such as rashes and blisters.”

“Oil and grease may also result in aspiration leading to respiratory diseases while ingestion will cause gastrointestinal irritations which may manifest acutely as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea,” the agencies said.

They also advised the public not to consume contaminated fish, shellfish, and other seafood.

On April 12 or days before the DOH and the DENR’s public advisory against swimming in Puerto Galera, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco visited the resort town and went diving at Lalaguna Point, one of the areas tested for oil contamination.

Fransco had said then that Puerto Galera was unaffected by the oil spill and was still open to tourism. She also encouraged tourists to go there. 

Dolor on Tuesday said tourists can do other activities other than swimming, such as playing on the beach, non-beach swimming activities in resorts, mountain climbing, and visiting waterfalls. – Rappler.com

Why it’s important to contain the Oriental Mindoro oil spill ASAP

Why it’s important to contain the Oriental Mindoro oil spill ASAP

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.