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MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. left out the Oriental Mindoro oil spill, the biggest environmental disaster that happened in his first year in office, in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 24, to the disappointment of an environmental coalition.
Four months after the tanker MT Princess Empress carrying at least 800,000 industrial fuel oil capsized off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, the Philippine Coast Guard last month declared oil siphoning operations complete.
Despite this, Pola, Oriental Mindoro Mayor Jennifer Cruz said last July 19 that tar balls and remnants of the oil spill are still being collected from their shorelines. The coastal town of Pola is one of the hardest hit areas of the oil spill in the province due to its proximity from the sunken vessel which was around 400 meters deep in the ocean.
Ahead of Marcos’ SONA, some civic groups had expressed concern that the completed extraction of the remaining oil from the tanker would be falsely touted as a victory.
Marcos, however, did not give any updates or mention any long-term plans regarding the disaster that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had projected would potentially cause P7 billion in environmental damage on local ecosystems.
There was also no mention of reparation for affected communities, as well as aid for fisherfolk who suffered from fishing bans that took away their livelihood.
Environmental coalition Protect VIP said this omission is an admission of the President “failing to meet his own deadline.” Marcos in March this year had hoped that the cleanup would be finished in four months, but backtracked a month later saying it was useless to set a deadline due to changing weather conditions.
“Is the plight of more than 24,000 fisherfolk not worth mentioning or is the oil spill now a crisis forgotten?” said Protect VIP in a statement on Monday.
However, Marcos talked about the fisheries sector in his second SONA in light of the proposed revision on the amended Philippine fisheries code.
Other environmental issues Marcos took up in his speech were the proposed excise tax on single-use plastics, an update on renewable energy contracts the Philippine entered into the past year, the institutionalization of a circular economy, and a blanket statement reiterating the country’s commitment to decarbonization.