The Department of Tourism on Wednesday raised the alarm over 61 tourism sites—including beach resorts—that are affected by the massive oil spill in Oriental Mindoro.
Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco raised this concern during the Tourism Stakeholders’ National Summit on Wednesday.
“It’s an ongoing collaborative effort to manage the situation that is led by the DENR (Department of the Environment and Natural Resources) and we are here to assist our tourism workers,” she added.
The oils spill from the sunken tanker MT Princess Empress, which was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel, has already affected 70 barangays in the region, and will surpass the devastation caused by the 2006 Guimaras oil spill, said Senator Cynthia A. Villar.
She pushed for assistance to residents who are affected by the oil spill of the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.
Presiding the Committee on environment, natural resources, and climate change hearing, Villar asked resource persons from various government agencies what assistance they have provided so ar 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.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Assistant Secretary Bernardo Alejandro updated the committee on the oil spill.
Villar said the oil spill will definitely damage the marine ecosystem and biodiversity; fisheries and food supply; livelihood of the people, especially fishers; the health of the people; and tourism.
Furthermore, 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.
Senator Francis Escudero asked the Office of the Civil Defense and the NDRRMC to simplify their process to expedite the release of calamity funds to local government units (LGUs) that need immediate relief.
He noted the bureaucratic red tape cannot go on and the LGUs affected by the oil spill should not suffer the same fate of Sorsogon when it was devastated by Typhoon Tisoy in December 2019 when he was still governor.
The province, he said, received financial assistance from the calamity fund only in 2022, three years after the typhoon struck.
The NDRRMC met on Wednesday with its member agencies and local government units to reinforce the ongoing response operations following the oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress in Oriental Mindoro.
During the meeting, Oriental Mindoro Gov. Humerito Dolor raised concerns about the impact of the oil spill in the region.
As of Tuesday, the oil spill has affected 31,497 families in Mimaropa and Western Visayas, and hurt the livelihood of 13,654 farmers and fishers.
House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto, meanwhile, said that a portion of the government’s P380 billion a year collection from crude oil and petroleum products can be used to finance the clean-up of the Mindoro oil spill and indemnify impacted coastal residents.
Recto said a mere one day’s worth of oil tax collections – P1 billion – would be enough to jump start “abatement and alleviation” measures in areas hit by the ecological disaster.
Recto said he is “gently reminding” government of its huge revenues from oil and fuel products “to goad it to spending more for the containment of the oil spill.”
“Whatever you are spending is just a mere drop in the barrel of oil tax collections,” he said.
Recto believed that “if the treasury were an oil tank, then it is only correct to siphon off from its contents to address a situation for which one particular tax was meant to alleviate.”
“Nature, when it is under threat, as in the case of the oil spill, is entitled to tax dividends,” he said.
Recto said an excise tax is slapped on oil products because it is viewed as a harmful product, causing pollution and sickness, and contributing to global warming.
“The argument was that it is paid to compensate for damages to health and the environment.
That was how previous administrations framed their justification for higher oil taxes,” he said.
“So can this principle be invoked in the Mindoro oil spill? Can collections of this specific tax be spent for the contingencies used to justify its imposition?” Recto said.
Based on a study of a House of Representatives think-tank, the Bureau of Customs collected P372 billion in duties and taxes on crude oil (P138.9 billion) and petroleum products (P233.5 billion) in 2021.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue added P7.4 billion in excise tax from petroleum products during the same year.
The BOC gets the bulk in collections based on the “pay as you enter” principle when taxes on crude oil and refined products are collected upon landing in ports.