Verde Island Passage faces new oil spill threat | Inquirer News

Verde Island Passage faces new oil spill threat

A fishing vessel named Anita DJ II submerged off the waters of Calatagan, Batangas.

IMMINENT DANGER | Fishing vessel Anita DJ II is seen listing in the waters off Calatagan, Batangas, on Aug. 26, 2023, after encountering rough seas due to inclement weather. The distressed ship was carrying 70,000 liters of oil. (Photo from the Philippine Coast Guard Southern Tagalog District)

CITY OF CALAPAN, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines — A fishing vessel carrying 70,000 liters of diesel nearly sank off the coast of Calatagan, Batangas, on Sunday, sparking fears of another oil spill in the fragile biodiversity of Verde Island Passage (VIP), an advocacy group said on Monday.

In a statement on Monday, Protect VIP said the vessel, Anita DJ II, partly sank after encountering strong rains while traveling from Navotas City in Metro Manila to Palawan province, with its 13 crew members all rescued.


The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported that the fishing vessel was found partly submerged around seven nautical miles (around 13 kilometers) from the shoreline of Cape Santiago in Calatagan’s Barangay Bagong Silang on Aug. 26.


“Six months after the MT Princess Empress [sank in Oriental Mindoro], we are threatened [by] another oil spill that may poison the vulnerable ecosystem of VIP, even as issues from the previous spill remain unresolved,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Protect VIP convenor.

Last Sunday’s incident took place six months after the oil tanker MT Princess Empress spilled 800,000 liters of industrial oil in the waters off Oriental Mindoro destroying mangroves and other coastal resources in the province, with oil sludge spreading as far as Palawan and Antique provinces and slick reaching parts of Batangas.


MT Princess Empress sank off Naujan town of Oriental Mindoro province, which is within the VIP corridor, a resource-rich strait between mainland Luzon and Mindoro Island but which is also a vital shipping route for oil tankers, cargo ships and commercial vessels crisscrossing the ports in Luzon and the Visayas.

But the Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) said the fuel cargo of Anita DJ II had been sealed, which could prevent an oil spill.

On the other hand, the PCG said in a report on Monday it had coordinated with the Calatagan municipal DRRMO to prepare for an oil spill response.

The PCG also urged local tourism officials to inform resort owners and coastal village officials “to be vigilant for a possible oil spill.”


Gariguez acknowledged that the fuel carried by Anita DJ II was much smaller than that of MT Princess Empress and that the oil cargo had been sealed.

Still, he said, “The government must still act fast to ensure that these seals hold and do not cause another ecological disaster.”

Fishermen in Batangas also expressed concern about the possibility of an oil spill affecting their source of livelihood, noting that their families rely heavily on their catch to survive, according to Protect VIP.

“The likelihood of another oil spill is very alarming, especially since we’re still recovering from the impact of a fish ban due to the oil spill from MT Princess Empress,” said Rodrigo de Jesus, president of fisherfolk group Bukluran ng Mangingisda ng Batangas, in the Protect VIP statement.

De Jesus said the government must start enforcing a “concrete plan” to avoid an oil spill in the future, apart from taking immediate action to prevent Anita DJ II’s cargo of industrial oil from leaking into the water.

The identity of Anita DJ II and whether the vessel had complete papers when it sailed were not immediately known.

“Until vessels carrying crude oil and industrial oil continue to pass through the VIP, the possibility that an oil spill tragedy similar to what MT Princess Empress caused will happen again is still high,” said De Jesus.

Call for ban

Brent Ivan Andres, program head of the Oceans, Coastal Communities and Climate of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development, reiterated his call for the government to ban the movement of ships carrying toxic substances in VIP in light of the accident.

“We are a country vulnerable to climate change, where the weather is changing quickly, and this is on top of the 20 typhoons a year we normally get,” said Andres in a statement on Monday.

He said, where there are ships with toxic cargo and sudden gusts of bad weather, accidents would take place even with all precautions taken.

“What more can happen once the giant gas projects are put up and huge LNG (liquefied natural gas) tankers start traveling more often in the area? It will be a recipe for a disaster greater than [MT] Princess Empress,” Andres warned.

Known as the “center of global shorefish biodiversity” due to the high densities of marine resources, the VIP is a 1.14-million-hectare marine ecosystem located off the coastlines of Batangas, Romblon, Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, and Oriental Mindoro provinces.

But the Protect VIP also described the marine corridor as the “epicenter” of fossil gas and LNG developments in the country, as eight of the 27 proposed new plants and seven of the nine planned LNG terminals in the country are located in Batangas.

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The group warned that by allowing fossil gas facilities to be built and operated in Batangas, it exposes the VIP to the frequent entry of LNG barges, inadvertent oil spills, or the disposal of shipboard liquid waste and bilge water.


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TAGS: Verde Island Passage oil spill

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