BATANGAS CITY – The Philippine Coast Guard reported late Tuesday afternoon, February 28 an oil spill from the oil tanker MT Princess Empress that capsized earlier in the day off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.
Reports of the five-kilometer long and 500-meter wide oil spill from the diesel fuel that powered the oil tanker prompted environmental groups to urge the Philippine government to end the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.
The Philippine Coast Guard, which had deployed air and water assets to monitor the effects of the maritime mishap off Balingawan Point, said the oil spill did not involve the 800,000 liters of crude oil that the tanker was ferrying from the port of Limay in Bataan to the port of Iloilo.
“We monitored spillage of diesel fuel, not industrial fuel oil (cargo),” the PCG said in a statement.
The PCG also said the vessel owners’ representative promised to send two tugboats with an oil spill boom to contain the damage.
The initial report, from a GMA interview with port manager Joselito Sinocruz of the Port Management Office (PMO) Batangas, placed the vessel in the Tablas Strait off Romblon island when it capsized around 2 am.
The PCG later clarified that the accident took place off Balingawan Point. Tablas Strait is a body of water separating Mindoro Island from Panay and Romblon islands.
Later in the day, Bantay Dagat personnel of Pola in Oriental Mindoro recovered life vests, safety tubes, rafts, and belongings from oil tanker MT Empress in Barangay Tagumpay, Naujan.
Authorities said they are also monitoring the site of another maritime accident off the coast of Occidental Mindoro.
Commodore Innocencio Rosario Jr., the commander of the Philippine Coast Guard Southern Tagalog told Rappler that cargo vessel MV Manife V ran aground in the evening of February 26 north of Lubang, Occidental Mindoro, 110 meters from the shoreline of Barangay Maligaya.
All the 20 crew members of the MT Princess Empress and the 14 from the MV Manife V were safely rescued and brought to shore.
A foreign vessel rescued the oil tanker’s crew and brought them to Subic Bay port.
The MV Manife V crew were brought to the Lubang Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office for a medical checkup.
Rosario said coast guard and local officials in Occidental Mindoro were also keeping an eye on conditions around the accident site of the MV Manife V.
The environmental group, Greenpeace, in a statement said the accident and the tension it has caused is a reminder for the Philippines to move away from its dependence on fossil fuels.
“Fossil fuels destroy biodiversity and human lives. When incidents like oil spills happen, companies are allowed to just move on, while fisherfolk and coastal communities bear the brunt of the consequences,” said Greenpeace campaigner Jefferson Chu.
“Fossil fuel corporations are morally obligated to make the shift to renewable energy sources — and, based on their record profits last year, have more than enough capacity to do so. We demand that these companies acknowledge the danger they are putting us in, pay climate reparations, and stop further expansion of their toxic operations,” Chu said, calling the oil industry “a ticking time-bomb for the country.”
If the government is really committed to protecting the environment, as it has claimed since its inauguration, it must end the Philippines’ fossil fuel dependence and start making oil, coal, and gas corporations accountable,” he added. Lance Yu/- Rappler.com
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