The Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) on Tuesday said satellite images showed new traces of oil slick in Verde Island Passage, an area rich in marine biodiversity.
Roel dela Cruz of PhilSA, said the oil slick was sighted in Verde Island between Mindoro and Batangas on March 27 at 10 a.m.
The newest satellite image showed “relatively long oil slick” in Verde Island, contrary to the report by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that the area “no longer had oil spill traces.”
Another satellite image obtained from a private firm, Planet Labs, still needed to be processed and analyzed.
PhilSA said the satellite images are important tools that can help authorities in the cleanup and containment of the oil spill off Oriental Mindoro caused by the sinking of the MT Princess Empress with 900,000 liters of industrial fuel oil.
The PCG and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are given copies of the satellite images and maps showing the progression and the scope of the areas affected by the oil spill.
The University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute is one of the recipients of PhilSA’s satellite images to help in developing oil spill trajectory models.
Greenpeace Philippines—on Tuesday alleged that insurers of MT Princess Empress has been discouraging claimants from exercising their legal right to seek justice over compensation money.
Jefferson Chua, Greenpeace campaigner, said there were reports that the insurers have been dissuading potential claimants from filing charges against RDC Reield Marine Services, the company that owns the MT Princess Empress.
“It is utterly unacceptable that an insurer would discourage claimants from exercising their legal right to seek justice while dangling compensation money over their heads. Communities have suffered enough in the past month and the last thing they need is more disenfranchisement from companies who continue to operate with impunity,” he said.
While the insurer has the responsibility of making sure claimants fully know their rights and the consequences of their choices, it has no business airing their suggestions about what claimants should or should not be doing,” he added.
He called on the government to make polluters take responsibility for the oil spill and pay reparations due to the communities.
A month after the sinking of MT Princess Empress off the coast of Oriental Mindoro, the Protect Verde Island Passage (Protect VIP) launched a coalition called SOS—Stop the Oil Spill, Save Our Seas! to pool efforts in calling for immediate accountability and action on the oil spill.
“We, a collective of concerned and affected stakeholders, are very alarmed by the inadequate level of response afforded to this disaster. While government agencies have been taking action, it does not seem to be the prompt and coordinated response needed by this oil spill which is already a disaster of national and international proportions,” Protect VIP convener Fr. Edwin Gariguez said.
“A tragedy of this scale —one that directly affects an estimated 36,000 families whose lives and livelihoods are interwoven into the health of our seas—must be met with the greatest possible action and highest standard for accountability of all involved actors,” he said.
The Philippine Coast Guard, meanwhile, welcomed the arrival of the Korean Coast Guard Emergency Response Team at the PCG headquarters in Manila exactly a month after the MT Princess Empress sank near Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.
PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu briefed the Korean team headed by Lee Jongnam, director of marine pollution response division, with the latest update on the oil spill.
The Korean government also shipped oil spill response equipment, including 20 tons of sorbet pads and snares, 1,000 meters of solid flotation curtain boom and 2,000 sets of personal protective equipment.
The PCG said it is planning to add remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in their 2024 budget for a stronger oil spill response in the future.
Also on Tuesday, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said it has made provisions for skills upgrading
and technology assistance to all stakeholders based in Puerto Galera that will help them find alternative livelihood opportunities following the oil spill.
“At this point, it’s really about ensuring that our tourism frontline workers will have options for work for a few days or weeks because of the oil spill. That is why we will be providing training to them, not just specifically focused on their present work but more of alternative types of work,” said Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco.
DOT regional offices will organize and implement the training for interested tourism stakeholders on the island.