Sunken tanker’s fuel cargo leaks into sea
CITY OF CALAPAN — The oil spill caused by a sunken fuel tanker has spread and reached the shores of several towns in Oriental Mindoro, increasing the risk of damaging fish sanctuaries in at least 21 marine protected areas managed by local communities, reports from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the environment department showed on Thursday.
In a report posted on social media, the PCG said it observed an oil spill along the shores of Barangay Buhay na Tubig in Pola town and “patches of emulsified oil”—or a mix of industrial fuel and oil—along the coastline of Pinamalayan town. These areas are 60 kilometers and 42 km, respectively, from the waters off Naujan town, where the vessel capsized early Tuesday and eventually sank on Wednesday.
After conducting water sampling in Naujan, Pola and Pinamalayan towns, the Environmental Management Bureau reported that 21 marine protected areas, located as far as 40 km from the eastern section of Balingawan Point, could be impacted by the oil spill.
“It has mapped potential risk areas including seagrass beds, mangroves and dispersion pathways for spawned fish larvae,” the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the PCG would install spill booms to shield the marine protected areas.
Patrols by the Naujan Bantay Dagat (sea watch) also reported that the oil spill had reached the waters off Sibale Island in Romblon province, more than 62 km south of Naujan.
Oriental Mindoro Gov. Humerlito Dolor, in a statement, said the oil spill had spread in the vicinity of Sitio Tuhod in Barangay Herrera, Naujan.
The coverage area was estimated to be 6 km long and 4 km wide. The spill, Dolor said, has become a risk to Naujan’s three fish sanctuaries, its public cemetery, Pitugo Beach, Papangkil Beach, and the Montemayor Cove, as well as the seven fish sanctuaries and Polacay Beach in Pola town, and four fish sanctuaries in Pinamalayan town.
Dolor had instructed the PCG in the province to deploy vessels along these coastlines to warn fishermen who might sail near the spillage area.
The PCG-owned tugboat Titan continued spraying oil dispersants in the area on Thursday, the agency said. The tanker’s shipping company, RDC Reield Marine Services Inc., has contracted Malayan Towage and Salvage Corp. to assess the level of oil spillage, it added.
Verde Island Passage
“Our primary concern is to determine the exact location of the sunken tanker, secure and retrieve its industrial fuel cargo and prevent the spread of contamination that will bring harm to residents, the local fishing industry and the biodiversity of the Verde Island Passage (VIP),” Dolor said.
The VIP is a resource-rich body of water spanning the provinces of Batangas, Marinduque, Romblon, Occidental Mindoro, and Oriental Mindoro.
Dolor has been coordinating with Naujan Mayor Henry Joel Teves and Environment Underscretary Marilou Erni, as well as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on what measures to take to contain the spill.
In coordination with the PCG and Philippine Air Force, the DENR’s “Task Force Naujan Oil Spill” would conduct aerial surveillance in the coming days to further monitor the situation. The DENR has also tapped experts in the private sector to help in addressing the incident and creating a mid- to long-term risk management strategy for the affected area.