MANILA – The Philippine government is looking at tapping Japan to help contain a rapidly spreading oil spill in Oriental Mindoro, a result of the tanker M/T Princess Empress capsizing off the coast of Naujan town on Feb. 28.
Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista on Saturday said the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is working with relevant agencies to contain and recover the slick but the spill has already reached another area in the province.
A PCG report also said the oil leak was starting to affect three villages in Caluya, Antique.
“’Yung Coast Guard nandoon. Tinitignan nila kung papaano pigilan pa ‘yong pagkalat ng langis. Sana ay huwag umabot sa Verde Island dahil ito ay protected area natin (Our Coast Guard is there and monitoring how it could further prevent the spill from spreading. Hopefully, it will not reach Verde Island, which is a protected area),” Bautista said at the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City.
Verde Island is located between Batangas province and Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro.
“Siguro ay hihingi kami ng tulong sa Japanese government dahil nabanggit sa akin na malaki ang kakayahan ng Japanese government na matulungan tayo para hindi masyadong kumalat ang oil spill na ito sa ating islands sa Mindoro (We’re looking at asking the Japanese government for help because I was told that it has the capacity to assist us),” he added.
The University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) estimated that 20,000 hectares of coral reef, nearly 10,000 hectares of mangroves, and 6,000 hectares of seagrass are at risk in 21 municipalities across Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, and Antique.
Among these are Calapan, Puerto Galera, and Bulalacao in Oriental Mindoro; San Jose in Occidental Mindoro; and Coron in Palawan.
In an earlier bulletin, the UP-MSI said the spill might reach the southern tip of Mindoro in a matter of days, given the direction of the wind and waves.
Other efforts being done to help understand the spill include hydrodynamic modeling to determine where the oil might end up given the wind and currents in the area, the institute said.
Bautista, meanwhile, said an investigation is underway on the sunken tanker, which was carrying about 800,000 liters of fuel oil, and which reportedly capsized due to engine trouble.
“Ang sinasabi napakalakas daw ng alon. Mabuti at ‘yong mga crew ay nasagip ng dumadaang sasakyan. Iyon ay iniimbestigahan pa ng MARINA (They said it was due to the strong waves. It’s fortunate that the crew were safe after they were rescued by a passing ship. MARINA [Maritime Industry Authority] is now investigating this),” he said.
Mindoro and Palawan are home to world-famous dive sites, known for their rich marine biodiversity, coral reefs, and sea creatures. (PNA)