MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is investigating the possible forgery of a Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) regional official’s signature on the MT Princess Empress’ amended permit to sail, a regulatory official said on Monday, March 20.
MT Princess Empress, the tanker that capsized on February 28 off the coast of Oriental Mindoro causing oil pollution that has reached Palawan and Antique, was reported to have an approved amended Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) based on a document released to the media last week by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
But MARINA National Capital Region (NCR) director Marc Anthony Pascua denied in Monday’s press conference that he signed the amended CPC, which PCG spokesman Rear Admiral Armand Balilo said Coast Guard personnel had presumed to be authentic and valid.
The Coast Guard got flak from senators during a Senate hearing on March 14 for allowing MT Princess Empress to sail despite not having a valid permit to operate.
During the press conference, Pascua was asked about his signature on the supposed amended CPC released by the PCG. His name is spelled as “Marc,” but it was spelled “Mark” on the document, and his position was “director” of MARINA’s Franchising Service.
Pascua confirmed that he was not director of MARINA’s franchising service.
“As far as MARINA NCR is concerned, as far as our records are concerned, we have not issued an amended CPC to the particular vessel that is Princess Empress. That’s number one. Number two, I have not signed any CPC for that particular vessel. So, in short, in my opinion, that is not… authentic so to speak,” Pascua said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“Though they [ship owner] have a screened application, they have not been issued a CPC amendment because there is a process to be followed,” he added. “Lubos po kaming nalulungkot sa mga ganito pong lumabas. But having said that, that is under investigation na po.” (We are saddened by these reports. But having said that, that is already under investigation.)
MARINA spokesperson Sharon Aledo also said in the Monday briefing that an investigation into the questionable amended CPC and possible forgery was being undertaken by the DOTr.
“Hopefully, we can also again request the DOTr [Department of Transportation] on the status of the investigation, but as I said, this is not being ignored, but it’s under investigation of the DOTr,” said Aledo.
MARINA, whose mandate is to ensure ships are safe for people and the environment, is under the DOTr headed by Transportation Secretary Jaime “Jimmy” Bautista.
On March 14, hours after the Senate’s inquiry into the oil spill incident, the PCG had posted pages of a CPC supposedly issued by MARINA to RDC Reield Marine Services (RDC), owner of MT Princess Empress.
PCG’s Balilo said that this document was the permit given by the shipowner to the Manila station of the PCG, and that PCG personnel relied on the document and presumed it was regular. This is why the PCG allowed the ship to sail nine times already. (READ: MT Princess Empress was ‘colorum,’ MARINA insists)
On Monday, Rappler noticed that the PCG’s post of the CPC had been deleted. We have yet to verify why the PCG deleted its post.
MARINA suspends RDC’s vessels
Aledo also announced that RDC’s vessels are no longer allowed to operate. The suspension was handed down on Friday, March 17, more than two weeks after the oil spill took place.
“MARINA has already issued a directive for the ship owner of MT Princess Empress, considering po na meron pa rin siyang mga pag-aaring ibang vessels (they still have other vessels), they have already been suspended. So, they are no longer operating,” she said.
Rappler has reported that SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation, a subsidiary of San Miguel Shipping and Lighterage Corporation, chartered RDC, owner of MT Princess Empress, to ship 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil, also called “black oil” and is considered toxic.
Aledo reiterated on Monday that the MARINA cannot confirm this information since they were only told by RDC that MT Princess Empress left the private SL Harbor Terminal in Limay, Bataan bound for Iloilo.
The MARINA spokesperson earlier said that while a charterer is not liable for an oil spill based on the Oil Pollution Compensation Act of 2007, it should have undertaken “due diligence” of the company it contracted to ship its cargo.
Meantime, Aledo said the MARINA has approved the release of P33 million from the Oil Pollution Management Fund (OPMF), administered by the agency, for the cleanup and containment operations of the oil spill, as requested by the PCG. It is expected to be released sometime this week.
Owners and operators of oil tankers and barges, including RDC, contribute to this fund. It is used to finance cleanup operations of the PCG in the event of an oil pollution.
Aledo said the initial P33 million will be used by PCG to buy dispersants and Personal Protective Equipment.
Coastal communities in Oriental Mindoro have been affected by the spill since they have been banned from fishing and tourism has been affected. Government authorities continue to investigate who should be held accountable for the spill and its P330 million worth of damage. – Rappler.com
There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.