Senator Bong Revilla urged the government over the weekend to investigate the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities in many towns of Oriental Mindoro, following the oil spill caused by the MT Prince Empress, which sank off the Naujan coast with 800,000 liters of industrial fuel on Feb. 28.
This as Pola, Oriental Mindoro Mayor Jennifer Cruz appealed for an alternative livelihood program for her constituents as the impact of the oil slick worsens.
“Right now, it’s getting harder and harder. We encounter more problems now,” she said.
“At first, we were only concerned about food and how we would sue and find the ship owner. But right now, our growing problem seems to be its domino effect,” Cruz said.
Revilla said Oriental Mindoro Gov. Humerlito Dolor told him about the unabated rise in the prices of food and basic commodities, including rice, meat, poultry and vegetables, since the oil spill two week ago.
“The continuing increase of basic commodities in affected municipalities in Oriental Mindoro is alarming,” Revilla said, noting that many of the residents have already lost their livelihood because of a ban on fishing.
He said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should act on this to ensure nobody takes advantage of the situation.
Also, he said, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has committed to tapping the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) Project in the affected areas to help the people.
In the meantime, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will immediately roll out a cash-for-work scheme for 19,000 affected residents for three more months.
Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian expressed alarm over a possible fish shortage and the loss of livelihood for residents of Oriental Mindoro, where fishing is a primary source of income.
Already, some 13,000 fishermen and their families in Mindoro alone have been affected by the oil spill.
He noted that production is expected to decline in the coming months as the oil spill has now reached Antique and Palawan, and may reach Romblon and Aklan, where the country’s premier tourist destination of Boracay is located.
Several tourism activities in the whole Mimaropa region will likely be affected, as well, depriving stakeholders of their livelihood.
Gatchalian, who has visited the affected towns, said the government must extend whatever assistance it can to alleviate the plight of those affected by the oil spill.
A professor from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI), meanwhile, said the oil slick may reach Puerto Galera and Batangas.
In an interview on radio dzBB, Irene Rodriguez, UP-MSI associate professor, said that their recent projections based on the water currents and wind flow, the Northeast Monsoon or Amihan has slowed down and is going north along the Verde Island Passage.
This, she said, could carry the oil slick north and could affect the municipalities or coastal communities of Calapan, Puerto Galera and areas in Batangas.
Dolor confirmed on Friday that the oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress has already reached Calapan City.
Rodriguez suggested the placement of fireproof spill booms while a portion of the oil itself is burned.
She said she agreed that large vessels be prohibited from passing the Verde Island, as it is considered a center of marine biodiversity.
In other developments:
• Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel on Sunday asserted that coastal communities adversely affected by the massive oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress in Oriental Mindoro are entitled to compensation from the tanker’s owner. “The law imposes strict liability for pollution damage resulting from spills of persistent oil from tankers, and ensures compensation for those who suffer economic losses or incur costs due to the toxic discharges,” he said. “We expect the oil tanker’s owner to be swamped with compensation claims from individuals and entities harmed by the spill, including those forced to conduct their own cleanup activities.”
• Agri party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee on Sunday batted for the allocation of more funds for booms and other equipment for oil spill containment to avoid the dire consequences of maritime disasters in the future. “The disaster caused by the MT Princess Empress oil spill has exposed how ill-equipped we are in responding to threats to our aquatic resources due to oil spills. This is why I will be asking for a bigger fund for oil spill containment equipment in the next budget hearing,” he said, noting that the Philippine Coast Guard has admitted it does not have enough equipment to handle the disaster.
• Laguna Rep. Marlyn Alonte said response to an oil spill must be within minutes, hours or a few days, and not weeks. “The main problem with the current oil spill crisis is it took days for any booms to be deployed — by which time the oil had already spread to other islands. If containment booms and skimmers had been readily available and timely deployed, the damage would have been confined,” she said. She also lamented that it took several days before the location of the sunken MT Princess Empress was known.