DENR, DOH start regular water, air quality tests in areas hit by oil spill
CITY OF CALAPAN—The environment and health departments have started testing groundwater, seawater and air quality in areas affected by oil spill from a sunken fuel tanker in Oriental Mindoro province to check for toxins and chemicals which might pose risk to public health.
Gov. Humerlito Dolor, in a statement posted on his Facebook page Tuesday, said the initial result of air quality testing by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on March 5 “passed standards.” Dolor said Environment Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, during her visit to Oriental Mindoro on Tuesday, guaranteed seawater and air testing in 38 sampling areas in the province every three days to ensure that any change would be detected.
Personnel from the Department of Health (DOH) also collected samples of groundwater for testing on Wednesday to see if the spill had contaminated drinking water in coastal communities. Results have yet to be released.
On Feb. 28, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported an oil spill from MT Princess Empress which capsized off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. Reports said it was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil as cargo.
The accident resulted in the spillage of thick industrial oil, posing health hazards to affected residents and disrupting the livelihood of fishermen as well as owners of resorts and other business establishments.
The PCG reported Wednesday that their personnel collected 92 sacks of oil-coated debris, seagrasses and used oil absorbent pads during the coastal cleanup at Barangay Buhay na Tubig in Pola town on Tuesday.
On Monday, the Oriental Mindoro provincial board passed a resolution declaring a state of calamity in 76 coastal villages across nine towns affected by the spill.
President Marcos on Wednesday said he instructed government agencies to start the cleanup, assuring affected communities that the government would extend assistance particularly through its cash-for-work program.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the launching of the Kadiwa outlet for workers in Quezon City, the President said displaced fishermen would be given temporary jobs and would be tapped to help in the cleanup.
Private companies which have the equipment, as well as the government of Japan, have sent assistance to the government’s efforts to contain the oil spill, Mr. Marcos said.
In Antique province, local officials, volunteers and residents of 18 villages in Caluya town started making improvised spill booms to contain the spill. These were sent to the affected areas in Barangays Sibolo, Semirara and Tinogboc, according to the PCG.
These booms were made of used clothes, coconut husks, fish nets and other indigenous materials, said Commander Jansen Benjamin, public information officer of the PCG Western Visayas District.
Caluya, composed of five islands, has been declared under a state of calamity after about 8 kilometers of its shoreline were hit by the spill.
In her Facebook page, village chief Catherine Lim said the “bayanihan” (cooperation) spirit continued as many organizations and individuals in Semirara had been donating plastic bottles, ecobags and other materials in producing the spill booms.
She said the village would need more jute sacks to collect contaminated seagrass, sand and debris.
Meanwhile, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) has set aside P315 million as an emergency loan fund for its members who live or work in Oriental Mindoro, where a state of calamity had been declared due to the oil spill. “With our emergency loan program, we hope to alleviate the plight of nearly 13,000 GSIS members who are working or residing in the affected areas and pensioners who reside there,” GSIS president and general manager Wick Veloso said in a statement.