MANILA — Sen. Cynthia Villar is pushing for assistance to residents who are affected by the damage brought about by the oil spill from MT Empress Princess which sank off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro last Feb. 28.
Presiding the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change hearing, Villar said that based on reports, the oil spill in the province will surpass the devastation caused by the 2006 Guimaras oil spill, considered as the worst oil spill in the country’s history.
Villar asked resource persons from the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Ports Authority, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the assistance they have so far provided for the cleanup and containment of the oil spill, as well as the assistance given to affected residents, especially those who have lost their livelihoods.
NDRMMC Asec. Bernardo Alejandro informed the committee that a task force headed by the regional director of OCD MIMAROPA (Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan) was created to support the efforts of DENR and the PCG in oil spill containment, cleanup, and emergency response.
Alejandro also updated the committee on the oil spill which has already affected 70 areas in the region, with 122 persons reported to have been ill due to the incident. About 22,000 families were also affected in 118 barangays in Oriental Mindoro and Palawan. Also affected 13,588 fisherfolk in Oriental Mindoro.
Villar noted that based on past and current experiences, the Oriental Mindoro oil spill will definitely adversely affect 1) the marine ecosystem and biodiversity; 2) fisheries and food supply; 3) the livelihood of the people, especially the fisher folks; 4) health of the people; and the 5) tourism industry in the affected areas.
In addition, the oil spill threatens around 21 locally-managed marine protected areas, including the Verde Island Passage, which is poised to become a legislated protected area as “the center of the global-shore fish biodiversity,” Villar said.
“Moreover, as the people are still inching towards recovery from the pandemic, it appears unwarranted for the residents of the provinces and municipalities in MIMAROPA and Region 6 affected to be subjected to additional hardships because of the oil spill,” Villar said.
Together with Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, Villar asked government agencies to report to the committee the cost of assistance and activities so far provided, as well as the needed resources to continue their operations in affected areas. (Amado Inigo/MTVN)