Bolinao asks vessel owners to stop spill

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DAGUPAN CITY—The town government of Bolinao, Pangasinan, has asked the owners of the sunken ship, MV Harita Bauxite, to immediately stop the vessel’s oil from spilling into the West Philippine Sea to prevent further damaging coastal communities.

Lawyer Ayar Montemayor, spokesperson of the Bolinao government, said Mayor Alfonso Celeste had written the ship’s owners in Singapore to ask them to plug the holes in the ship’s fuel tank or to remove the fuel to stop it from spreading into the open sea.

MV Harita Bauxite, which was carrying nickel ore from Indonesia, sank 17 nautical miles (31.48 kilometers) off Cape Bolinao on Feb. 17 after developing engine trouble. The vessel was on its way to China. One of the ship’s crew members died, nine were rescued, while 14 others were reported missing.

Earlier, Philippine Coast Guard personnel reported an oil spill near the area where the ship sank, “moving to the northwest direction … on its way out of the West Philippine Sea.”

But on Feb. 25, the presence of oil sludge was reported in some coastal villages of La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and just last week, in Bolinao.

“Our estimate is that MV Harita Bauxite may still be carrying about 500,000 liters of fuel, oil and lubricants for its machines,” Montemayor said.

He said the current may have shifted to the opposite direction, bringing the sludge to the shorelines of the fishing villages of Binabalian and Dewey in Santiago Island in Bolinao.

“In Binabalian alone, we have a span of around 600 meters of shoreline where we removed debris. Cleanup is still ongoing,” Montemayor said.

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