Ship carrying 1.3 M liters of crude oil held in Pangasinan
SUAL, PANGASINAN—Citing environmental threats, Pangasinan Gov. Ramon Guico III on Wednesday asked the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to remove a ship loaded with more than a million liters of crude oil from Sual Bay, where it is being held for lack of papers.
In a statement, Guico said MV Veronica I should be moved to a safer location to protect the bay from destruction, noting that crude oil from the ship may leak into local waters.
Guico called for an emergency meeting at Urduja House, the governor’s official residence in the capital Lingayen, on Monday to alert local officials about the ship, which carries 1.35 million liters of crude oil. The ship is now under the custody of the BOC office in Sual after the agency seized it when its crew members failed to show the necessary documents for its cargo.
The Maritime Industry Authority extension office in Pangasinan said it did not issue any safety certificate that would have allowed the vessel to sail. Its port of origin and destination were not immediately known, but its 13 crew members were initially detained at a local police station and were later freed on bail.
Provincial legal officer Baby Ruth Torre said she had written the BOC to formalize the governor’s request to remove the ship from the bay.
Sual Bay is a cove facing Lingayen Gulf and hosts the town’s mariculture area where more than 800 “bangus” (milkfish) cages are located.
Government data showed that Sual, and the towns of Bolinao and Anda, supply about 80 percent of bangus produced in Pangasinan.
Commander Mark Theodore Valencia, chief of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) station in Pangasinan, asked the provincial government to allow MV Veronica I to temporarily dock at Sual fish port as a safety precaution because a typhoon is expected to enter the country on Friday.
Guico said he was heeding Valencia’s recommendation but asked the PCG to safeguard the ship’s cargo.
According to the governor, the ship’s docking at the pier would be temporary, stressing that the vessel should eventually be removed from the bay.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recommended that spill booms be installed around the ship in case of a leak. It also asked for the installation of additional anchors to stabilize the vessel.
According to the DENR, their divers found out that the ship dropped its anchor on a muddy substrate.
Catherine Regino, Sual legal officer, said there was already “an imminent danger or threat” because of oil spillage from the ship.
But laboratory analyses of water samples taken by a DENR team near the ship indicated that there were still no traces of an oil spill in the area. —YOLANDA SOTELO
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