By Rio N. Araja
Residents of Verde off Batangas and Mindoro provinces, most of them fishermen, urge local and national government officials to declare the island a “no-sail zone” for oil tankers, coal barges and other vessels bearing fossil fuels.
This developed as the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) said satellite images showed new traces of oil slick in Verde Island Passage, an area rich in marine biodiversity.
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.
At a news conference in Quezon City, leaders of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) batted for the implementation of a 2017 memorandum of agreement (MoA) to protect marine wildlife and resources in the Verde Island Passage.
The group was joined by concerned residents of Verde Island, leaders of various non-government organizations, and political leaders of the provinces of Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Batangas, Marinduque, and Romblon.
The PMCJ stressed that the 2017 agreement and Law Enforcement Network aimed to strengthen the protection and management of Isla Verde, a global center of marine shore fish biodiversity.
In 2017, the island was home to over 1,736 species of fish, 338 species of corals and thousands of other marine species.
The oil spill brought about by the sunken MT Princess Empress owned by RDC Reield Marine Services on Feb. 28 in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro aggravated the other threats to the environment, human health and livelihood of the residents within Isla Verde.
According to the PMCJ, the oil spill was a serious threat to the Verde Island Passage.
The group asked the government to hold the owners of MT Princess Empress liable for the damage done to the marine protected areas of Isla Verde and adverse impacts on the health of the affected residents.
Moreover, it sought reparation and indemnification for biodiversity destruction, livelihood displacement and income loss.
“Declare the Verde Island Passage a ‘no-go zone’ for oil, coal and fossil fuel-carrying tankers and barges,” the PMCJ said.
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.