Marcos says massive oil spill clean-up could take under 4 months

BenarNews staff
Marcos says massive oil spill clean-up could take under 4 months Coast guard personnel clean spilled oil from the shore of Pola, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines, March 8, 2023.
Philippine Coast Guard handout

The cleanup of a massive oil spill that has caused more than 18,000 Philippine fishermen to lose their livelihoods and threatens the nation’s most diverse sea region could be finished in less than four months, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Wednesday.

He said he directed government agencies to help fishermen affected by the spill from the MT Princess Empress, which was carrying 800,000 liters (211,337 gallons) of industrial fuel when it sank off the central island of Mindoro last week.

“It took four months to clean up the Guimaras oil spill. Perhaps this time, since the amount of oil is smaller, the cleanup would be faster,” Marcos told reporters. “Maybe not as quickly as one month, but I think we won’t let it reach four months.”

The president was referring to the worst spill in the country that took place in August 2006, when tanker M/T Solar 1 sank off the coast of Guimaras, an island province in the Philippines. The tanker spilled more than 2.1 million liters (554,761 gallons) of fuel.

The Princess Empress sank in rough seas off the town of Naujan in Oriental Mindoro province on Feb. 28. Officials have imposed a fishing ban in seven coastal towns affected by the oil spill.

Marcos said the government has a cash-for-work program for the affected fishermen as they will help in the cleanup.

“If it’s finished, they can go back to fishing, they can go back to their work,” he said.

‘Seeking accountability’

On Tuesday, a senior senator quoted marine experts to describe the potential damage caused by the Princess Empress spill.

Sen. Francis Tolentino said marine experts projected that about 20,000 hectares of coral reef, 9,900 hectares of mangroves, and 6,000 hectares of seagrass may be affected.

“[T]he oil spill may also potentially reach as far as the shores of Palawan,” he said.

“While we are seeking accountability, our efforts in the meantime should be focused on the containment of the oil spill to prevent it from causing further irreversible damage to our marine ecosystem.”

Coast Guard chief Adm. Artemio Abu appealed for help in containing the spill.

He said crews were set to use 6,000 liters (1,585 gallons) of oil dispersant in an effort to protect the shoreline. Dispersants help break oil from spills into small droplets to aid in cleanup efforts.

“Oil dispersants should not be applied haphazardly,” he said.

“We should be really careful in addressing this incident, our approach should be scientific.”

Jeoffrey Maitem in Davao, Philippines, contributed to this report.


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