The oil spill from the sunken tanker M/T Princess Empress has spread to an area the equivalent of “around a thousand football fields,” the environmental group Greenpeace Philippines said.
“Based on our satellite imagery from our mapping team in Greenpeace International, we have seen as of March 8, around 6.2 kilometers worth of oil is continually being spilled,” Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Jefferson Chua told ANC in an interview.
“This is equivalent to around a thousand football fields. So, we can imagine how big that is,” Chua added.
The tanker, which was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil, sank on February 28 off the waters of Naujan in Oriental Mindoro.
“With their projection of around a thousand barrels a day being spilled, we will see all of that 800,000 liters spilled, which will put it way beyond the Guimaras oil spill that is considered the worst in Philippine history,” Chua said.
In 2006, an oil tanker sank off the coast of Guimaras and spilled more than 500,000 liters of bunker fuel.
Greenpeace Philippines also raised the alarm that the oil spill may reach the Verde Island Passage — considered the center of marine biodiversity in the planet.
For his part, Puerto Galera Mayor Rocky Ilagan said there are no traces of the Mindoro oil spill yet in the island destination.
“If the oil arrives, we are ready,” Ilagan said.
The University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute on Sunday showed the results of a recent simulation model on the oil spill crisis.
The simulation focused on the tanker’s location from March 10 to 16 and claimed that the non-stop discharge of oil from the alleged seepage area and the weakening of the northeast monsoon or “amihan” may lead the oil to flow northwards toward Verde Island.
The oil trajectory will also affect the coastal areas of Calapan and some parts of Batangas, the UP MSI study noted.
So far, more than 137,000 people or 30,000 families living in the Mimaropa and Western Visayas regions—nearly double than previously reported—have already been affected by the oil spill, the government said.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said it has already distributed P10.98 million worth of food and non-food items among the 30,042 families—or 137,230 residents of 121 barangays of Mimaropa and Region 6, who were affected by the oil spill.
The DSWD also launched a cash-for-work program for fishers who are banned from fishing in the polluted waters and will be deployed instead to help in the clean-up efforts.
Meanwhile, the Senate committee on environment and natural resources chaired by Sen. Cynthia A. Villar will start today (Tuesday) its probe on the sinking of M/T Princess Empress.
Invited to attend the hearing are officials from the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the shipping company of the sunken ship.
The Senate inquiry was based on the Senate Resolution 537 filed by Villar and the privilege speech of Senator Francis Tolentino.
“The oil spill has affected the tourist destinations in Oriental Mindoro, such as the Bihiya Beach, 3 Cottage, Long Beach K. I, Aguada Beach Resort, Oloroso Beach Resort, Munting Buhangin Tagumpay Beach Resort, and Buhay na Tubig White Beach Resort in Oriental Mindoro, and even threatens to affect Boracay, the country’s premiere tourist destination,” she said.
“The oil spill is occurring in major fishing areas, and is spreading to pristine fishing breeding grounds,” added Tolentino.
Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr., for his part, called for a congressional inquiry into the oil spill.
Haresco said the M/T Princess Empress is liable under several international conventions which include the 1992 International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (1992 CLC), the 1992 International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage (1992 FUND);
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), and the International Safety Management (ISM) Code.
“Beyond clean-ups, we must make an effort to make MT Princess Empress and its owners RDC Reield Marine Services accountable to the government for damaging our tourism industries and marine resources and to the affected communities whose health and livelihood are heavily compromised,” Haresco said.