Greenpeace hits insurance firm of sunken MT Princess Empress

Over 10,000 liters of oil and water mixture were collected during the offshore clean-up operations following an oil spill that began in Oriental Mindoro, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Tuesday.

INSPECTION French experts have joined a team from the
Philippine Coast Guard in testing water samples gathered from the shoreline of Pola town in Oriental Mindoro to measure the level of oil contamination from the sunken tanker MT Princess Empress, in this photo posted on the PCG Facebook on March 26. PHOTO COURTESY OF PCG

LUCENA CITY — The environmental group Greenpeace assailed the insurance company of the sunken MT Princess Empress after its lawyer allegedly dissuaded claimants from filing a case in court against the ship owner.

“It is utterly unacceptable that an insurer would discourage claimants from exercising their legal right to seek justice while dangling compensation money over their heads,” Jefferson Chua, Greenpeace Philippines campaigner said in a statement Tuesday (March 28).

He added: “Communities have suffered enough in the past month and the last thing they need is more disenfranchisement from companies who continue to operate with impunity.”

Greenpeace called on President Marcos Jr. “to demand reparations from those responsible for this ongoing catastrophe.”

Lawyer Valeriano Del Rosario, who represents the P&I Club, the insurance association covering the owners of the MT Princess Empress, reportedly advised the victims of the oil spill not to file separate individual civil and/or criminal cases against the ship owner, RDC Reield Marine Services (RDC) because they would already get compensation after the processing of the claims.

The lawyer explained that suing the ship owner would only result in long years of court battles.

Del Rosario acknowledged that claimants may still choose to file individual or class suits but doing so would put on hold the processing of their claims, he said.

While Chua acknowledged that the insurer has the responsibility of making sure claimants fully know their rights and the consequences of their choices, “it has no business airing their suggestions about what claimants should or should not be doing.”

“This reveals the self-serving mindset of these companies: that impacted communities are mere collateral damage and they can easily be paid off,” Chua lamented.

He charged that treating the oil spill victims “without considering long-term reparations is a classic move by companies that refuse to acknowledge that their business operations constitute grave threats against communities and biodiversity.”

“It’s a move to escape accountability,” he stressed.

Chua called on the government “to make these polluters come out in the open, take responsibility for the spill, and pay reparations due to the communities.”

He noted that it had been a month since the oil spill, and the government agencies had yet to provide a complete and accurate valuation of the damage.

“Without this, the companies involved are given an easy way out,” Chua said.

it is in the best interest of the government to protect its people, natural resources, and the economy “against companies that operate without regard for the serious and often irreparable consequences of their destructive business,” he argued.

MT Princess Empress, which carried 800,000 liters of industrial fuel and oil, sank in the waters off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro on Feb. 28 due to engine trouble.

Based on the situational report by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the oil spill has already reached the towns and cities of Bansud, Bongabong, Bulalacao, Calapan, Gloria, Magsaysay, Mansalay, Naujan, Pinamalayan, and Pola in Oriental Mindoro. The whole province was declared under a state of calamity.

The coastal towns of Agutaya and Taytay in Palawan; Caluya town in Antique, which was also declared under a state of calamity; and Batangas City and Tingloy town in Batangas, was also affected by the oil spill.

On Sunday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council reported that the oil spill had so far affected 34,553 families.


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