DOJ endorses raps over Mindoro oil spill

DOJ endorses raps over Mindoro oil spill

/ 05:50 AM February 15, 2024

PHOTO: Photo taken during an aerial inspection conducted by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the Philippine Coast Guard on April 15, 2023, shows the coastal waters of Oriental Mindoro province still bearing traces of the Feb. 28, 2023 oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress. STORY: DOJ endorses raps over Mindoro oil spill

GLISTENING PROOF | Photo taken during an aerial inspection conducted by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the Philippine Coast Guard on April 15, 2023, shows the coastal waters of Oriental Mindoro province still bearing traces of the Feb. 28, 2023 oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress. (File photo from Malacañang)

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has recommended criminal charges against the owners of the ill-fated MT Princess Empress and several others over falsified documents, nearly a year after the tanker sank off Oriental Mindoro and caused a massive oil spill that polluted surrounding waters and left thousands without livelihood.

The DOJ on Wednesday said a panel of state prosecutors had found that shipping company RDC Reield Marine Services Inc. submitted faked documents, including a construction certificate and affidavit of ownership, which allowed the tanker to sail despite noncompliance with regulations.


Princess Empress was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel when it sank off the coast of Naujan town on Feb. 28, 2023, resulting in widespread environmental damage and economic losses.


Upon evaluation of the affidavits and other pieces of evidence, the panel discovered “irregularities in certain documents,” prompting them to endorse charges against the corporate officers of MT Princess Empress, officials of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), and a private individual for multiple counts of falsification of public documents and use of falsified documents.

The names of the individuals to be indicted were not immediately available.

Environmental case

But Justice Assistant Secretary Jose Dominic Clavano said the charges were recommended to be filed against corporate officers of RDC, two crew members of MT Princess Empress, one private individual who was the project manager, and one Marina personnel member.

They stand accused of multiple counts of falsification by a private individual and multiple use of falsified documents under Article 172 in relation to Article 171 (2), and multiple counts of falsification of public or official documents under Article 171 (4), of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.

“The environmental case is slightly more complicated but in progress already in terms of gathering of evidence and case buildup,” Clavano told reporters.

According to the DOJ, the charges were initiated based on the criminal complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation-Environmental Crime Division and Mayor Jennifer Cruz of Pola, Oriental Mindoro, in June 2023. Clavano earlier said officials from Marina and RDC allegedly conspired with each other to have the sunken tanker registered using false documents, including a certificate of public convenience.


The respondents in the initial complaint included RDC Reield Marine Services Inc., its corporate officers, certain employees, 19 Philippine Coast Guard staff, and two members of Marina personnel.

The DOJ noted that the prosecutors also recommended the dismissal of charges against the other respondents for lack of probable cause.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, for his part, assured the public that those responsible for the oil spill would be held accountable, saying “negligence cannot be used as an excuse to destroy the environment and livelihood of people.”

Cruz, the Pola mayor, expressed gratitude for the “swift action” of the DOJ, which came two weeks before the first anniversary of the oil spill disaster.

“The owner of the ship should be held accountable because until now the impact of the oil spill is still felt on the economy and our people are still struggling to recover,” Cruz said in a statement.

“We are hoping that the owner of the ship will pay to help with the recovery because the billions lost in Pola town’s economy is no joke,” she added.

90 percent affected

Based on an independent fact-finding initiative launched by a coalition of scientists and environmental groups last year, more than 90 percent of the 400 affected residents surveyed said they did not earn enough to meet their family’s needs because of the oil spill.

Jordan Fronda, research advocacy campaigner of the Center for Environmental Concerns, earlier said that in Pola town, each family had reported an average loss of P7,500 income per month.

While the cash-for-work programs of the government and farming kept them afloat, other residents said they just relied on cash or food aids or taking out loans, as they had no other source of income.

READ: Mindoro oil spill ruins nearly P1 billion in livelihood sources

In the capital city of Calapan, Fronda said 93 percent of the respondents said their earnings were insufficient, and the oil spill had a domino effect on various sectors, from the fisherfolk communities to the “sari-sari” stores, tricycle drivers, and other workers who relied heavily on the ocean for their livelihood.

The detrimental effect on the environment was even bigger as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) estimated in April 2023 that a total of P7 billion worth of marine resources might have been exposed to the oil spill.

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“The total area extent of the three ecosystems (mangrove areas, seagrass beds, and coral reefs) that fall within the oil spill trajectories across the three provinces is estimated to hold an economic value of around P7 billion,” the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau said.

TAGS: Department of Justice, Mindoro oil spill

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