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MANILA, Philippines – More than three months since the oil tanker MT Princess Empress capsized and sank, the oil siphoning operation in Naujan, Oriental Minodoro has been completed, according to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
Using live videos from remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs), an interagency task force confirmed that all eight cargo oil tanks were now empty. The ship’s operational tank also no longer had traces of oil. There were still, however, oil drips coming from the cargo piping line.
PCG spokesman Admiral Armand Balilo told reporters on Saturday, June 17, that although the oil removal and recovery operations were complete, the oil spill containment operation was still ongoing. He also said the cleanup of shorelines of affected communities was about 95% complete. In the worst-hit towns like Pola, Oriental Mindoro, the spilled oil still shows up underneath the sands.
“Nakakolekta sila ng 84,000 liters of oily water mixture, 64,000 liters nito ang langis,” Vice Admiral Rolando Punzalan Jr., PCG Deputy Commandant for Operations, told radio DZBB.
(They were able to collect 84,000 liters of oily water mixture, of which 64,000 liters were oil.)
Punzalan said this amount was close to the estimate made by the Japanese team that found MT Princess Empress in March and had sent an ROV to assess the spill. Before the Japanese team, assisted by the US Coast Guard, left Oriental Mindoro first week of April, it was estimated that at least two-thirds of the 800,000 liters of oil had already spilled.
Assuming MT Princess Empress’ oil cargo was exactly 800,000 liters of oil, this would mean that 736,000 liters (800,000 minus 64,000 siphoned) of black oil spilled into the environment.
Punzalan said catch cans were used to capture the oil from the compartments of MT Princess Empress. After the catch cans were filled with oil, these were siphoned into a tanker.
Thick industrial fuel oil began leaking out of the MT Princess Empress’ tanks soon after it sank on February 28.
Oil removal operations first began on May 29 or three months after the ship sank. The PCG earlier said that all of the oil would be siphoned off by June 19.
The PCG, along with other government agencies, conducted a final inspection on Friday, June 16 as salvage company Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation (MTSC) was completing its operation.
The MTSC said that two of their tugboats would continue monitoring and containing oil that may leak from the oil tanker’s fuel pipes.
In April, “oil fingerprinting” analysis by Cedre, a French agency specializing in accidental water pollution, found that samples of spilled oil taken from Oriental Mindoro were the same as the “representative samples” gathered from SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation’s tank in Limay, Bataan where the ship was loaded with oil.
Rappler reported on March 13 that SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation was the charterer of MT Princess Empress. The owner of MT Princess Empress, RDC Reield Marine Services, has refused to confirm or deny this, citing its non-disclosure agreement.
San Miguel Corporation president and CEO Ramon Ang has also neither confirmed nor denied the Rappler report. On March 31, Ang merely said that his company is just one of the clients of RDC for shipping oil.
Last June 6, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the mayor of Pola, Oriental Mindoro filed criminal complaints against RDC Reield Marine Services. Some personnel of regulator MARINA who approved MT Princess Empress’ questionable documents, as well as a number of PCG staff who greenlit the tanker’s trips without a valid license to operate, were also included in some of the complaints.
As of June 17, 42,487 families or 200,244 people, mostly fisherfolk, have been affected by the environmental disaster. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said damage to agriculture (fisheries) has reached P4.9 billion. Environment Secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga earlier estimated the damage to coral reefs, seagrass, mangroves and other natural resources at around P7 billion.
After encountering big waves, strong winds and after seawater poured onto the ship, MT Princess Empress capsized and sank off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, causing an oil spill that has affected communities in at least 20 cities and municipalities in Oriental Mindoro, Batangas, Palawan, and Antique. – Rappler.com
Read more from Rappler’s coverage of the Oriental Mindoro oil spill:
- ‘A no-brainer’: Marcos gov’t urged to declare Verde Island Passage off-limits to certain ships
- Marine life has ways to weather an oil spill. Can we keep up?
- It was a San Miguel Shipping subsidiary that chartered MT Princess Empress
- Why it’s important to contain the Oriental Mindoro oil spill ASAP
- After oil spill in Oriental Mindoro, uncertain future grips fishing community
- PANOORIN: Ano ang health risks ng exposure sa oil spills?
- Environmental damage from oil spill may reach P7 billion – DENR chief
- MARINA revokes Princess Empress operator’s license
- Oil spill exposes a Coast Guard in dire need of modernization
- ‘Pagod na po kami’: Pola mayor wants MT Princess Empress ship owner sued
- PH gov’t to shoulder rehab costs as oil spill insurance, aid won’t be enough – DOJ official