Oil slick spreads to 2 more Calapan villages
CITY OF CALAPAN — The oil slick from the sunken MT Princess Empress that reached the shores of this capital city of Oriental Mindoro province has spread to two more villages, authorities said Friday.
In an advisory, the city government said patches of oil clumps were also found along the coastline of the villages of Maidlang and Silonay.
Calapan is located some 23 kilometers from the waters off the province’s Naujan town, where the tanker, which carried 800,000 liters of industrial oil, sank on February 28.
The oil slick was first reported in the city’s Barangay Navotas on Thursday, particularly in Sitio Villa San Antonio and Sitio Proper after residents found traces of industrial oil stuck on the sand.
Members of local disaster response units and volunteers have started placing a 500-meter long improvised spill boom, made out of empty bottles, red plastic bags and rice straws, near the shores of affected areas to cushion the impact of the spill.
READ: Oil spill nearing shoreline of Pola, Oriental Mindoro based on satellite photos – PhilSA
Booms were installed at the estuary of Wawa River and at the mouth of Calapan River in Barangay Ibaba West, said Marius Panahon, aquaculturist at Calapan fisheries management office.
The city government initially prohibited fishing in the affected areas but lifted the ban late Friday, telling residents that they were still allowed to catch fish.
Instead, it asked villagers to closely inspect seafood they buy in local markets for possible contamination.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said it would send “sensory inspection” teams to local markets to check the appearance, flavor, odor and texture of fish and other seafood.
READ: Fish shortage feared amid Oriental Mindoro oil spill
Only swimming in the waters of the three affected villages has been banned by the local government.
People living near coastal areas were asked to avoid taking and using water from sources within 100 meters of the shoreline where traces of oil were found.
In an interview on Friday, Dennis Escosora, head of the Calapan disaster risk reduction and management office, said their priority was to install floating barriers along the shoreline of Sitio Proper since it would be one of the main gateways to the town’s other coastal areas.
“But we are also targeting to install oil spill booms in all areas that are projected to be affected,” Escosora said.
Appeal to Marcos
The environmental group Protect Verde Island Passage (VIP) called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday to intervene and order concerned government agencies to help contain the oil spill.
Located north of Calapan, VIP is a thriving marine corridor that traverses the provinces of Batangas, Marinduque, Romblon, Occidental Mindoro, and Oriental Mindoro.
“The only way to achieve the President’s hope of cleaning up the oil spill in four months is to compel government agencies to direct all resources toward containment,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez in a statement sent to the Inquirer on Friday.
READ: Oil spill in Oriental Mindoro threatens Verde Island Passage
Gariguez, also the director of the Diocesan Social Action Center in Calapan, said they wanted more concrete plans from the national government “as worries over the sustainability of the current assistance have surfaced.”
In Oriental Mindoro’s Pola town, which is among those worst hit by the spill, Mayor Jennifer Cruz said the local government had already sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to probe the liability of RDC Reield Marine Services Inc., the sunken vessel’s owner, in the spill.
“It’s up to the NBI and the DOJ to decide on this matter. We will listen to them… All we want is to get justice for what happened to us here,” Cruz said in a television interview on Friday.Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, on Thursday, said his department had started doing a case buildup against the owners and operators of MT Princess Empress.
“We are sorting out all the evidence so that we can file the proper complaint. We are collating all the data… there are possible cases to be filed (against the owners and operators of the sunken vessel),” he said. According to Cruz, the ship’s operator has neither sent aid to the affected communities nor sent people to help in the cleanup since the slick reached the town’s shoreline early this month.Cruz said at least 191 Pola residents had fallen ill due to the fumes and foul odor from the spilled oil.
READ: Gov’t failures bared in Mindoro oil spill
She said many of them suffered from headache, upset stomach, sore throat and fever and experienced difficulty in breathing.
“The [Department of Health] has been providing us with medicines… But we’re also looking for alternative livelihoods for affected families as the effects of the oil spill are expected to be long-term,” Cruz said.
The government task force managing the oil spill off Mindoro Oriental is awaiting the arrival from Japan on March 20 of a response team with Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to help in the cleanup efforts, said Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Department of National Defense officer in charge, on Thursday.
In his report to Marcos, Galvez said the task force and the Oriental Mindoro provincial government were coordinating with the customs, immigration and quarantine bureaus to hasten the entry of the team and its ROV, which was provided by Harbor Star, a private company contracted by the insurance firm of the owner of the shipping company.
The Malayan Salvage and Towing Corp., a private company also contracted by the insurance firm, is supporting offshore oil containment, he added. Galvez said 894 sacks of oil-contaminated debris and 77.5 drums of waste for treatment were collected during the continuous shoreline cleanup activities.
—WITH REPORTS FROM TINA G. SANTOS AND JEROME ANING
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