environmental conservation

After oil spill, groups urge local gov’ts to enforce MOA protecting Verde Island Passage

Lorenz Pasion

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

After oil spill, groups urge local gov’ts to enforce MOA protecting Verde Island Passage

PROTECT VIP. This file photo shows the rich marine flora and fauna of the Verde Island Passage.


In 2017, several provincial governments and national agencies signed a memorandum of agreement meant to protect the Verde Island Passage, the strait now threatened by the Oriental Mindoro oil spill

MANILA, Philippines – Amid the ongoing Oriental Mindoro oil spill, climate justice groups led by the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), community leaders, and fisherfolk urged provincial governments to enforce a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that they signed to protect the Verde Island Passage (VIP).

The environmental groups also called on the government to make the VIP a no-go zone for oil tankers and to reject applications for liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in the area.

The groups made the call in a press conference on Wednesday, March 29, during the sixth anniversary of the signing of the MOA establishing the Verde Island Passage (VIP) Marine Protected Area Network (MPAN) and Law Enforcement Network (LEN).

Under the MOA, the provincial governments of Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Romblon, and Marinduque committed to protect the marine flora and fauna in the VIP, the PMJC said in a statement. The local governments signed the MOA in partnership with concerned national government agencies, including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The VIP is one of the affected areas of the oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress in Oriental Mindoro. The vessel was carrying more than 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it sank off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro in early March.

Dubbed the “Amazon of the oceans,” the VIP is home to 1,700 fish species and 300 coral species, and is considered the “center of the center of marine shore fish biodiversity.”

Must Read

FAST FACTS: Verde Island Passage, the ‘Amazon of the oceans’

FAST FACTS: Verde Island Passage, the ‘Amazon of the oceans’

“We are calling [on] the government to protect VIP. The large volume of oil that spilled into our seas is a wake-up call. Nature is damaged, and our food and livelihood are also affected. Ships carrying oil and gas shouldn’t be allowed to sail through VIP. Those responsible for the destruction of VIP should be held accountable,” Leizel Amol, a Batangas resident, said in Filipino.

This sentiment was echoed by fisherfolk communities affected by the oil spill, with government estimates placing the number of affected fisherfolk at 20,000.

“It’s been almost two weeks since we were prohibited from fishing that started when the oil spill reached our shores. We lose P700 per day. Even if there are relief [aids] provided by the local government like noodles, rice, and canned goods, those are not enough. This is why we call the owners of Princess Empress to compensate for the damage caused to our livelihood,” Irvin Doraemon, a fisherfolk leader from the VIP, said in Filipino.

Even before the Oriental Mindoro oil spill, local fisherfolk and local government units along the Verde Island Passage have already reported an alarming decrease in fish catch.

This was attributed to the proliferation of fossil gas plant operations along the VIP corridor. Since the execution of the agreement, energy power plants using LNG have expanded their operations in Batangas, directly abutting the VIP, the PMJC said in its statement.

“The expansion of fossil gas projects along the VIP corridor undermines the commitment made in 2017,” said PMCJ national coordinator Ian Rivera.

“No less than the DENR, a party to the agreement, is entertaining applications for environmental compliance certificates for proposed fossil gas projects. Faithful enforcement of the agreement means agencies like DENR pulling the plug [on] the mad rush for fossil fuel projects by promoting cleaner renewable energy alternatives and doubling efforts to protect VIP,” he added.

A Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report said five of seven ongoing LNG terminal projects and two of three committed gas-fired power plants are in Batangas City, which lines the VIP.

The groups and community leaders called on the five governors representing the five provincial governments who signed the 2017 MOA to reject and oppose environmental compliance certificate applications of LNG and fossil gas power plant projects.

“With the unabated spread of hundreds of thousands of liters of oil into the VIP, and the deluge of fossil gas projects, the surrounding local government units must swiftly act to prevent the further devastation of our maritime resources,” said Aaron Pedrosa, co-chairperson of PMCJ’s Energy Working Group.

Apart from the five provincial governments, the DENR, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine Coast Guard, and Philippine National Police also signed the 2017 MOA.

No-go zone

To prevent future accidents from endangering the VIP, PMJC senior energy program officer Larry Pascua said the area should be made a “no-go zone” for oil tankers.

Considering the VIP’s role as a “nautical highway,” Pascua said it was understandable that not all ships could be prevented from passing through VIP, but oil tankers should not be allowed to pass through the area. 

“Ships carrying fossil fuel, barges, oil barges should not be allowed because we will face the same problem as what we are having now if an accident involving these types of vessel occurs,” Pascua said.

“Given the inaction of the national government, the provincial governments along the VIP corridor must join the people’s clamor for urgent actions – from immediately declaring the VIP as a no-go zone for fossil fuel projects and transport, declaring a national state of calamity to access disaster funds for clean up efforts, and to hold the owners of MT Princess Empress accountable,” Pedrosa said.

This wasn’t the first time the idea of prohibiting oil tankers from passing through the VIP was brought up. In a March 20 ABS-CBN News Channel interview, Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito “Bonz” Dolor said it would be a good policy to prohibit oil tankers from using the VIP.

Must Read

Marcos urged to ban oil tankers from using Verde Island Passage

Marcos urged to ban oil tankers from using Verde Island Passage

According to American nonprofit organization Conservation International, the VIP is one of the country’s busiest shipping corridors, home to an international port and various oil and gas facilities. – Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Avatar photo


Lorenz Pasion

Lorenz Pasion is a researcher at Rappler and a member of its fact-check team that debunks false claims that spread on social media.