MALACAÑAN PALACE, Manila — With more coastal areas near Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, and Batangas province under threat by the spreading oil slick from a sunken tanker, authorities are planning to use chemical-based dispersants to break down the oil and help clear the coastal waters.
But Climate Change Commission commissioner Albert Dela Cruz Sr. strongly warned them about their plan saying this could cause problems in the future by causing harm to the marine ecosystem.
In recent days, officials and residents here have doubled their efforts to protect their coastal communities as the threat of more spilled industrial oil reaching its shores loomed with the end of the northeast monsoon or ‘amihan’.
Traces of oil spill from the sunken tanker MT Princess Empress, which carried 800,000 liters of industrial fuel and sank off the Naujan town last February 28, has reached the provincial capital after almost a month.
City workers, residents, and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel have immediately mobilized to clean up the waters but to no avail.
On Monday, (March 20), Commissioner Dela Cruz joined PCG commandant Admiral Artemio Abu, Vice Admiral Rolando Punzalan, and other key government officials in an early meeting for a status update and assessment of the latest oil spill disaster.
So far, efforts to ward it off has become more urgent after the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) warned in a bulletin that more oil spill was expected to reach this city’s shores in three days.
Dela Cruz joined the assessment meeting with PCG officials to share some inputs on the proper response to being used in dispersing the oil spill and he particularly warned against the use of dispersants because when sprayed on a surface oil slick, the oil is broken down into smaller droplets that more readily mix with the water.
The Commissioner explained that the said droplets do not actually reduce the amount of oil entering the environment but push the effects of the spill underwater and this could have harmful effects on the marine environment and ecosystem.
Instead of using dispersants, Dela Cruz underscored the significance of a whole-of-nation-and-society approach in addressing the ongoing concern in Oriental Mindoro, stressing the significance of protecting our marine biodiversity, especially in the Verde Island Passage area, said to be the breeding ground of the country’s marine resources.
Meanwhile, Calapan City mayor Malou Morillo disclosed that they are in a proactive mode in responding to the crisis, employing various ways to prevent the oil spill from causing more damage to their coastal areas.
Morillo said coastal communities and partner agencies have already been mobilized in producing more improvised spill booms made from rice straws, ropes, empty plastic bottles, and sacks to protect the city’s waters.