ILOILO CITY, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-Western Visayas sent personnel and oil spill mitigation assets on Friday afternoon, March 3 to Antique province after oil spill patches reached Semirara Island in Caluya town.
Commander Jansen Benjamin, operations officer and public information officer of PCG District Western Visayas, said they received reports of an undetermined quantity of oil on the coastline of Semirara and believe this leaked from the ill-fated MT Princess Empress.
The oil tanker was transporting 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil to Iloilo when it sank in Balingawan Point off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro on February 28.
Benjamin said the PCG deployed 15 officers under the its Marine Environmental Protection Unit to Libertad town, the nearest jump off to Semirara.
The team brought floating assets and equipment like fence booms and oil skimmers, both commonly used to control oil spills.
“If weather permits, the team will load the equipment on their floating assets from Libertad town to Semirara island,” Benjamin added.
Benjamin’s announcement comes just 24 hours after he told Rappler the chances of the oil spill affecting part of Samar island was remote.
The officer said the personnel were trained to combat the spill. They will also resort to mechanical recovery and use an oil skimmer.
Mechanical recovery means that personnel will manually scoop the oil, while an oil skimmer is a device that is designed to remove oil floating on liquid surface.
A dive explorer familiar with the area from Oriental Mindoro to Antique told Rappler the wind in the area of the maritime mishap is coming from north, pushing south towards Antique, on the western coast of Panay island.
The diver also expressed concern over developments, saying there is a giant clam farm in Semirara.
Pinamaylan, one of eight Oriental Mindoro towns affected by the oil spill, is 113 kilometers south of Semirara and Caluya, which lie between the oil spill area and the Panay mainland.
Benjamin said Antique is about 125 to 129 kilometers from the area where the oil tanker sank.
The coast guard officer said they do not discount the possibility of the oil spill reaching other areas, since it is already in Semirara three days after the tanker sank.
Earlier on March 3, Coast Guard Romblon also reported signs of the oil spill on Sibale Island.
The Coast Guard has also tapped the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO), and Antique provincial DRRMO in responding to the incident. – Rappler.com
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