Oriental Mindoro oil spill

Antique governor warns of ‘ripple effect’ of oil spill damage, sends aid to fisherfolk

Jun Aguirre
Antique governor warns of ‘ripple effect’ of oil spill damage, sends aid to fisherfolk

BEYOND THE SEA. Oil waste from the MT Princess Empress reaches the shore of Semirara island in Caluya town, Antique

PCG-Western Visayas

Antique Governor Cadiao says fishermen report their catches smelling of oil, and notes Semirara is on the tuna highway going to General Santos

KALIBO, Aklan – Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao warned on Sunday, March 5, of the possible “ripple effect” of the oil spill from the MT Princess Empress that capsized on February 28 off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.

Cadiao spoke to Rappler on Sunday, two days after the oil waste from the oil tanker hit the islands of Semirara and Caluya in Antique province on the western portion of Panay island in Western Visayas. Caluya island  is situated south of Mindoro Island.

“While we in the province are doing our best to prevent the oil spill from flowing beyond the sea, it is better for the provinces of Aklan, Palawan, and General Santos City to be alerted and ready,” she said.

This is because the amihan monsoon could generate wind and sea currents that can sweep the oil waste away from the Oriental Mindoro area.

“Already, we have received reports that some of the fish collected by our fishermen at sea already smell of oil and therefore could not be eaten,” the governor told Rappler. 

“What is worse is that I was told that the area where the sludge was found in Semirara was along the  tuna highway going to General Santos,” Cadiao added.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on March 1 confirmed the leaking of the cargo of MT Princess Empress, described as 800,000 liters of industrial oil. The national government has not yet managed to discover the exact site on the seabed where the sunken vessel settled.

“We believe millions worth of our seaweed industry in the area has already been damaged. We are asking the RDC if we could file charges against the company to compensate our fishermen who have been affected,” Cadiao said, referring to a 2 pm meeting on Sunday.

Seaweed farming is one of Caluya town’s top sources of income. In 2021, more than 1,528 hectares had been planted to seaweed. The municipal agriculture office said farmers produced more than 3,176 metric tons of seaweed in 2020.

RECOVERY. More than 2,500 seaweed farmers, mostly residents of Caluya town in Antique province, lost their seaweed farms to Severe Tropical Storm Paeng (Nalgae) in 2022. Photo by Caluya Municipal Tourism Office
Relief drive

The governor ordered the distribution of 1,000 family food packs to residents of Caluya town, including Semirara island on Sunday.

The governor’s directive came after the local government and Philippine Coast Guard in Western Visayas (Region 6) reported collecting at least 20 drums of black oil waste since late afternoon of March 3.

Cadiao said the oil spill affected 373 individuals in Sitio Sabang, Barangay Tinogboc and more than 600 individuals in Sitio Liwagao, Barangay Sibolo. Most of the affected are fisherfolk and seaweed planters. 

Department of Social Welfare and Development-Western Visayas Regional Director Carmelo N. Nochete in a statement said that the 1,000 family food packs cost P541,000.

Cadiao is coordinating with Lim to transport the relief packs. 

Deployment of relief and additional manpower, however, are delayed by strong winds and rough seas along the western seaboards of Southern Luzon and Visayas, the provincial government said in a Facebook post.

Personnel from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) are currently on standby until it is safe for them to cross the sea to Caluya. 

Caluya Mayor Rigil Kent Lim issued an executive order on March 4 suspending all fishing activities or in the areas surrounding Sitio Sabang and Sitio Tambak in Semirara Island, Nagubat Island, and Liwagao Island. 

The suspension includes harvesting of marine resources for consumption. 

The oil waste reached Antique only 24 hours after the coast guard said the chances of western Panay being hit was remote.

Collecting sludge

Currently, according to Cadiao, coast guard personnel, residents, and volunteers from nearby areas are already at the scene manually collecting the sludge.

The coal company, the Semirara Mining and Power Corporation (SMPC) is also reportedly in charge of keeping the collected sludge.

It was not clear how the SMPC managed the collected sludge. – Rappler.com

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