Submerged oil tanker in Oriental Mindoro lacked permit to operate — report
MANILA, Philippines — MT Princess Empress, the oil tanker that sank off the coast of Oriental Mindoro causing a massive oil spill, lacked a permit to operate, senators learned on Tuesday.
During the hearing of the Senate committee on environment, natural resources, and climate change, Senator Cynthia Villar said that RDC Reield Marine Services, owner of the vessel, may not be able to claim insurance for the incident as they lack a permit to operate, based on the accident report of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).
“Maybe the Marina and the [Philippine] Coast Guard will explain that they cannot claim from the insurance because they have no permit to operate,” Villar, panel chairperson, said.
“I don’t want the people to rely on that $1 billion insurance if we cannot get that, and we should plan accordingly that we will not get that,” she added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros noted that there were seven items in the pre-departure inspection checklist of the MT Princess Empress that were not ticked off, including the certificate of public convenience (CPC).
“Hindi lang po isa, pito po ‘yung boxes dito na walang check du’n sa table na complete and valid safety ship certificates and documents,” she said.
(Not only one but there are also seven boxes without checks in the table for complete and valid safety ship certificates and documents.)
Marina Administrator Hernani Fabia and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Vice Admiral Joseph Coyme agreed that the tanker should not have set sail because it did not meet all the requirements.
“This is what we really want to forward to national headquarters: to conduct administrative investigations pertaining to lapses of our personnel, if such [is] the case,” Coyme said.
Senators likewise learned that the MT Princess Empress had set sail nine times without an amended CPC covering the vessel.
“That was the ninth voyage,” RDC Reield Marine Services Vice President Fritzee Tee said.
Ports where the vessel departed from include Bataan and Manila, Tee shared.
Senator Francis Escudero stressed that this was the ninth oversight of the PCG.
“So it has happened nine times already… The Coast Guard was supposed to inspect it and the Coast Guard saw that there was no amended CPC yet covering this vessel. Pang-siyam na ‘to na (This is the ninth) oversight on the part of the Coast Guard,” the senator said.
PCG claim for cleanup
Meanwhile, Fabia said that they have received a claim from the PCG for the conduct of oil cleanup amounting to P33 million.
Fabia said that they are eyeing to give the claim to the PCG which will be sourced from the Oil Pollution Management Fund (OPMF).
“May contribution ang each tanker at tanker hauler using persistent oil which is heavy oil ‘yan na hindi nag-e-evaporate ‘yun or black oil or persistent oil,” he explained.
(Each tanker and tanker hauler has a contribution of persistent oil which is a heavy oil that does not evaporate or black oil or persistent oil.)
“‘Yung each nagha-haul na ‘yan, nagbabayad sila P0.10 per liter. As of now, ang total fund ng OPMF is umaabot na ng P63 million,” he added.
(Each hauler pays P0.10 per liter. As of now, the total fund ng OPMF reached P63 million.)
On February 28, MT Princess Empress, carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel, submerged in the waters of Oriental Mindoro.
At least 77 coastal villages in the province were declared under a state of calamity following the incident.
The oil spill has likewise spread to parts of Western Visayas and Palawan.